Kochi, Apr 9 (PTI) Dalit leader M Geethanandan and some of his supporters were arrested today for attempting to block traffic here as part of a dawn-to-dusk hartal called by various Dalit outfits to protest the “dilution” of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Kerala’s Dalit Action Council convener Geethanandan and some activists were arrested and taken to various police stations in the city, police said.

The council has been at the forefront of the movement for Dalit rights in the state.

Condemning his preventive arrest, Geethanandan said it was a “prejudiced action” on the part of the police to silence the Dalits.

Around 30 Dalit organisations are observing the state-wide hartal to protest the alleged dilution of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act through a Supreme Court verdict.

They also condemned the police action against the Dalit agitators during the ‘Bharat Bandh’ observed in various northern states on April 2.

The Supreme Court had on March 20 ruled that government servants should not be arrested without prior sanction and private citizens, too, be arrested only after an inquiry under the law.

Opposing the verdict, several Dalit organisations had called for a ‘Bharat bandh’ on April 2 in which several violent incidents were reported from several states.

Meanwhile, the stir evoked partial response across the state.

The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) operated normal services.

Incidents of stone-pelting on KSRTC buses were reported in some parts of the state including Alappuzha and Thiruvananthapuram, police said.

A few shops and business establishments remained shut.

The Kerala University has postponed the exams scheduled for the day, in view of the hartal.

In the state capital, a group of Dalit activists took out a march to the Secretariat and staged a ‘dharna’. The opposition Congress-led UDF has extended support to the hartal.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.