New Delhi, Apr 2 (PTI) The Congress today held the central government responsible for the loss of life and damage to properties during violent protests by Dalit outfits against the alleged dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and accused the Centre of taking the issue “lightly”.

The Opposition party alleged that the Narendra Modi dispensation was not interested in the welfare of Dalits and weaker sections of society.

Senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge also alleged that atrocities on Dalits and minorities have been on the rise ever since the NDA came to power in 2014.

Azad, the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, said that had the government taken adequate steps to ensure that the SC/ST Act was not weakened or diluted, today’s nationwide bandh could have been avoided.

“I charge the central government, and not the Supreme Court, that this law was weakened and diluted because the central government did not represent the case properly before the court,” Azad said.

If the attorney general or additional attorney general had appeared before the court, the Supreme Court might not have taken the decision, he said.

The Supreme Court had on March 20 diluted certain provisions of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, in a bid to protect ‘honest’ public servants discharging bona fide duties from being blackmailed with false cases under the Act.

The verdict is being widely criticised by the Dalits and the Opposition who claim that the dilution of the Act will lead to more discrimination and crimes against the backward community.

Azad termed today’s ‘Bharat Bandh’ as a success against “the government’s failure and weakness”.

Both Azad and Kharge also regretted the loss of life and damage to properties during the bandh, saying the Congress never supports any violence.

“The central government is responsible for this loss in the country. If government had taken steps after March 20 when we gave them a memorandum to file a review petition, there would have been no loss of life and property in the country. I hold the central government responsible for the loss of life and property,” Azad said.

Kharge, the leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha, said the law had an impact on 23 per cent of the Indian population and alleged that “the government took this case lightly”.

He demanded that either an amendment be made in the Act immediately or a curative petition be made before the full bench of the Supreme Court.

Dalit protesters blocked trains, clashed with police and set fire to vehicles in violent protests across seven states against the alleged dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, leaving at least four people dead and many injured today, officials said.

Curfew was imposed in several places and the Army was called out in Bhind district in Madhya Pradesh. The Army and paramilitary forces were also put on standby in Punjab.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.