Security across seven states remain tight a day after massive protests were organised by Dalit groups against the Supreme Court ruling on the SC/ST Atrocities Act. Eight persons were left dead and many injured in the clashes which erupted in several cities across north and central India.
The all-India ‘Bharat Bandh’ was called by Dalit groups against what they term the dilution of the Act which is meant to safeguards the interests of Dalits and subalterns.
Thousands were detained following widespread incidents of arson, firing and vandalism across over ten states, several of them being BJP-ruled including Madhya Pradesh where at least six persons died during the protests. One person died in Uttar Pradesh and one in Rajasthan, according to officials there.
While two policemen were reportedly booked in Madhya Pradesh after the violence, a former BSP MLA Yogesh Verma, who represented Meerut’s Hastinapur in Uttar Pradesh has been detained.
The Centre has rushed 800 anti-riot policemen to Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Many cities in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar witnessed violent protests and clashes between the agitators and police personnel.
Two companies of Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel have been sent to Meerut and one company each to Agra and Hapur (all in UP), a home ministry official said. A company of RAF comprises around 100 personnel.
Two companies each of the RAF have been sent to Bhopal and Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh to assist the state administration in tackling the situation.
Meanwhile, curfew was imposed in several places, the Union Home Ministry has asked all states to take preventive steps and maintain public order to ensure safety of lives and property. The Army and paramilitary forces were also put on standby in Punjab.
MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan appealed to the protesters to maintain peace in the state.
Transport, mobile and internet services were hit in many states with over 100 trains getting affected due to protests.
Some states have also ordered closure of educational institutions as a precautionary measure on Tuesday.
UP 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.
Expressing her party’s support to protests, BSP supreme Mayawati alleged that some anti-social elements instigated violence leading to loss of lives and damage to properties.
Normal life was also affected in several parts of Odisha where activists of different Dalit groups put up road blockades. Thousands were arrested across Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha, while the impact was minimal in West Bengal though its Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed her support for the Dalit cause.
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)