Clashes erupted in several cities across north and central in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab on Monday in a massive all-India ‘Bharat Bandh’ called by Dalit groups to protest against the Supreme Court’s recent order on SC/ST Atrocities Act. They are protesting against what they term the dilution of the Act which is meant to safeguards the interests of Dalits and Subalterns.
Nine persons have died in the clashes, according to the authorities. Six deaths were reported from Madhya Pradesh, two from UP and one from Rajasthan.
Significantly, the Centre on Monday filed a review petition against the ruling, whcih on March 20 diluted the provisions of the Act and said government servants should not be arrested without prior sanction and private citizens, too, should be arrested only after an inquiry under the law.
Union Home minister Rajnath Singh also appealed for peace and advised political parties not to politicise the issue.
The states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh saw large scale violence with agitators in several cities clashing with the police personnel. There were reports of police lathi charge and firing as well.
Besides those two states, incidents of arson, firing and vandalism were reported from Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand and Punjab, among other states.
“Two people were killed in Gwalior while one person each died in Bhind and Morena districts in cross-firing during protests,” Inspector General (Law and Order) Makrand Deoskar told the press in Bhopal.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath too appealed for peace and urged the people not to vitiate law and order, as violence was reported from many districts including Azamgarh where protesters torched two state-run buses, injuring several passengers.
Meerut, Shamli, Hapur, Varanasi and Agra were other cities where violent clashes reportedly left many people injured.
Many trains, including Rajdhani and Shatabdi expresses, were stopped by protestors while some were short-terminated as precautionary measures. A group of about 2,000 people disrupted trains at the Hapur station as well, disrupting the movement of many goods trains, railway officials added.
Protests were also witnessed at Ambala and Rohtak in Haryana as well as in Chandigarh. The CBSE has already postponed Class 12 and Class 10 examinations scheduled to be held on Monday in Punjab at the request of the state government in view of the ‘Bharat Bandh’.
In Delhi too, protesters squatted on tracks at several places, stopping trains, including the Dehradun Express and the Ranchi Rajdhani, while a Northern Railway official said services were also disrupted by a mob in Ghaziabad.
The protesters gathered at Mandi House in Delhi and blocked roads. Shouting slogans of ‘Jai Bhim’, the protesters also blocked one of the carriageways of Barakhamba Road affecting traffic movement on the stretch, police said.
In Rajasthan, nearly 30 people — 20 from Ajmer and 10 from Jaipur — were detained as protesters blocked rail and road traffic and vandalised public properties. One person was killed in protests in Alwar, reportedly by firing.
In Patna, MLAs from the opposition parties, as well as some from the ruling side, demanded a resolution be passed by the House urging the Centre to take adequate measures to undo the recent Supreme Court order on arrests under the SC/ST Act.
Protesters stormed the Patna Junction where they forced closure of the ticket booking counters and squatted on railway tracks disrupting movement of a number of trains.
Normal life was also partially affected in several parts of Odisha. In the state capital of Bhubaneswar, activists of different Dalit organisations put up road blockades.
Major towns and cities of Gujarat also witnessed protests while civic-run transport services were halted after some of the buses were targeted by agitators.
(With inputs from PTI)