Several dalit organisations have called for a nationwide shutdown, a ‘Bharat Bandh’, to protest against the Supreme Court’s decision to amend the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, which dilutes certain key provisions in the law. However, the protests soon took a grim turn, with agitators resorting to violence and police utilizing forceful means to quell them.
Following are the updates on the Bharat Bandh:
Curfew was appointed in parts of Gwalior and in Morena after bouts of violent demonstration, in which one person was killed. Section 144 was enforced in Sagar. Protesters were seen pelting stones in Bhind.
Police thrashed protesters in Meerut after they vandalised cars and public property. The ‘Bharat Bandh’ movement, however, gained steam and soon protests spread to Agra and nearby areas.
Chief minister Yogi Adityanath appealed to the protesters to maintain peace and put forth their concerns to the government in a calm manner.
“The central and state governments are dedicated towards the welfare of backward castes, SC and ST. I appeal to all to not disturb the law and order. If at all there are any issues you can bring them to government’s notice,” the CM told ANI.
Bihar and Jharkhand
The effect of the Bandh were felt in Forbesganj and Sonapur, where protesters stopped trains.
In Ranchi, agitators clashed with police personnel, who resorted to lathi charge to disperse the crowd.
In Rajasthan, protesters blocked railway tracks and stopped a train in Jaipur. An apparel showroom was also vandalised, reported ANI. Public property was damaged and cars were torched by protesters in Barmer.
Haryana and Punjab
Dalits took out a protest marches in Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Ropar, Bathinda, Amritsar and Ferozepur in Punjab, even as the state government ordered closure of educational institutions, suspended bus services, and curtailed mobile and internet connectivity.
Protests were also witnessed at Ambala and Rohtak in Haryana as well as in the common capital of Chandigarh. The Army and paramilitary forces have been asked to remain on standby to prevent any exigency.
On March 20, the Supreme Court banned automatic arrests and registration of criminal cases under the SC/ST Act, triggering widespread criticism and outcry from the dalit community.
The apex court said public servants can’t be prosecuted without the approval of the appointing authority, and private citizens too should be arrested only after an inquiry under the law. It further ruled that preliminary inquiry in a case under the Act would be conducted by the Deputy Superintendent of Police to ensure the allegations are not frivolous.
The decision was a bid to protect honest public servants discharging bona fide duties from being blackmailed with false cases under the Act.
However, dalit organisations and some political parties fear the dilution of the provisions of the Act might lead to increase in violence against Dalits.