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  India   All India  03 Apr 2018  Bharat Bandh: 9 die as dalit protests turn violent

Bharat Bandh: 9 die as dalit protests turn violent

Published : Apr 3, 2018, 7:00 am IST
Updated : Apr 3, 2018, 7:00 am IST

Officials said, six persons were reported to have been died in cross-firing in Madhya Pradesh, while two died in Uttar Pradesh and one in Rajasthan.

Students stage a protest in Ranchi on Monday during “Bharat Bandh” call by dalit organisations against the alleged dilution of SC/ST Act. (Photo: PTI)
 Students stage a protest in Ranchi on Monday during “Bharat Bandh” call by dalit organisations against the alleged dilution of SC/ST Act. (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi/Bhopal/Lucknow/Jaipur: Nine people were killed on Monday as violent protests erupted across nine states during a nationwide bandh called by several dalit organisations against a Supreme Court ruling which has allegedly “diluted” the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

After hundreds of protesters carrying swords, sticks, baseball bats and flags forced shopkeepers and other establishments to shut down in several cities of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Odisha and Jharkhand, there were reports of shooting, vandalism, arson and clashes with police forces. Several people were injured, including police personnel.

By evening, the Centre had rushed 1,700 anti-riot police personnel to Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab from where the maximum number of incidents of violence were reported. Curfew has also been imposed in several places and hundreds have been detained.

Officials said, six persons were reported to have been died in cross-firing in Madhya Pradesh, while two died in Uttar Pradesh and one in Rajasthan.

Of the nine affected states, five have BJP governments, while in one, Bihar, the BJP is a coalition partner. Punjab, Odisha and Delhi have Congress, BJD and AAP governments in power.

The bandh and the ensuing violence hit life across the country with some states ordering closure of educational institutions and curtailing communication and transport services, including rail. Over 100 trains were affected due to the protests.

Ministry of home affairs is closely monitoring the situation and is in constant touch with the states. Whichever state has asked for Central forces, they have been made available immediately, officials said. The ministry has asked all states to take preventive steps and maintain public order to ensure safety of lives and property.

On March 20, the Supreme Court had observed that the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 is being used to “blackmail” innocent citizens and handed down guidelines to protect both public servants and private employees.

The court directed that public servants can only be arrested with the written permission of their appointing authority. In the case of private employees, the senior superintendent of police concerned should allow it.

The apex court also said that a preliminary inquiry should be conducted before the FIR is registered to check whether the case falls within the parameters of the Atrocities Act and if it is frivolous or motivated.

A day after the Supreme Court’s judgment, Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government was yet to examine it. The Congress said that there was a need to review the judgment as it promoted a “sense of insecurity” among the Dalit community.

Dalit organisations and some political parties fear the dilution of the provisions might lead to increase in violence against dalits.

On Monday, the Centre moved the apex court seeking review of its judgement, maintaining that the verdict will violate constitutional rights of these communities.

In 2016, which saw a 5.5 per cent increase in crimes against SCs, and 4.7 per cent rise in crimes against STs, in all 47,338 cases were registered under the SC/SC Act. Of these, 5,347 cases were false, while 869 cases were said to be mistake of fact. An additional 2,150 cases were found true but lacking proof.

The average conviction rate under the Act is about 25 per cent.

Reacting to reports of violence on Monday, home minister Rajnath Singh appealed for peace, while law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government was not a party to the Supreme Court’s decision on the SC/ST Act and “respectfully” did not agree with its reasoning behind the verdict.

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad alleged that incidents of atrocities on dalits and minorities have increased in the country since the NDA came to power in 2014, while AAP leader and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal extended his support to the protesting groups.

In Madhya Pradesh, at least five people were killed and several others including some police personnel injured as the protests by various Dalit outfits.

Violence particularly engulfed the backward Gwalior-Chambal region of Madhya Pradesh, leading to imposition of curfew in Gwalior, Morena and Bhind.

“Five people were killed and several others injured following incidents of violence witnessed in different places in the state during the bandh. Exchanges of fire between clashing groups led to death of five people”, inspector general of police (law and order), Makrand Deoskar told reporters in Bhopal.

Police fired in the air and resorted to lathi charge at several places.

While two deaths each were reported in Gwalior and Bhind districts, a youth was killed in Morena district.

In Uttar Pradesh, one youth succumbed to his injuries in Meerut and another died in Azamgarh, but the state government did not confirm the deaths. ADG Pravin Kumar said that 448 policemen were injured in the ensuing violence.

Chief minister Yogi Adityanath appealed to the people to abstain from violence and assured that the BJP government were committed to protecting their rights.

As violence escalated through the day, principal home secretary Arvind Kumar issued orders to district magistrates and superintendents of police of all districts to take strict action against those involved in violence and arson. A high alert was declared in the state around noon.

“We are not restricting peaceful protests but police will tackle those who would indulge in violence. Additional forces and para military forces are being rushed to districts where trouble is taking place”, UP DGP O.P. Singh said.

Maximum violence was reported from Meerut where angry protestors burnt the Shobhapur police outpost. Policemen and media persons were attacked by the mob that also pelted stones at the SSP office. SP (City) Man Singh was injured as the mob set a bus on fire and damaged several vehicles.

Violent incidents and reports of damage to public and private transport as well as disruption of traffic were received from Allahabad, Aligarh, Ferozabad, Azamgarh, Hapur, Muzaffarnagar and Saharanpur among other places.

In Rajasthan, one bandh supporter was killed and two injured in firing during protests.

Additional force has been deployed across the state and mobile Internet services were suspended in several districts. Prohibitory orders were issued after several vehicles were torched and clashes took place between bandh supporters and opponents.

Alwar, Bhilwara, Jodhpur, Bharatpur, Barmer, Shekhawati region were the worst affected from violence during the bandh. A bandh supporter was killed in cross firing between the bandh supporters and the police in Khairthal town in Alwar district.

The protesters blocked rail and road traffic and vandalised public property.

According to news agencies, in Patna, protesters stormed the railway station, forced closure of ticket counters and squatted on tracks disrupting movement of a number of trains.

Normal life was also affected in several parts of Odisha where activists of different dalit groups 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.

Tags: sc/st act, supreme court, yogi adityanath
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi