New Delhi, Apr 2: Dalit outfits held protests across the country against the dilution of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act following a Supreme Court order. The agitation – Bharat Bandh – turned violent in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh where protesters damaged public and private properties and pelted stones. One person was killed in firing in Madhya Pradesh’s Morena, after which curfew has been imposed in the area. In Uttarakhand’s Dehradun, shops were forcibly shut down by protesters. Catch live updates on Bharat Bandh here.
Protestors allegedly resorted to violence in Meerut, Agra and Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh. A police station was also set on fire in Meerut. In Madhya Pradesh’s Barmer, protesters burned down several vehicles and vandalised properties. Section 144 was imposed in Morena, Gwalior and Sagar. In Punjab, hundreds of protesters carrying swords, sticks, baseball bats and flags forced shopkeepers and other establishments in Jalandhar, Amritsar and Bathinda to shut down. All educational institutes, government and private, remained shut. (ALSO READ: All You Need to Know About SC/ST Atrocities Act Which Protects Dalits)
Demonstrators also entered the Jalandhar Cantt railway station, shouting slogans and burnt effigies on the tracks. Some highways and roads were also blocked. Traffic in and around Chandigarh was severely affected. Protests were also reported from Rohtak and other towns in neighbouring Haryana, reported news agency IANS. The state has the highest concentration of scheduled castes among states. They constitute nearly 32 per cent of the state’s 2.8 crore population.
Rail Services Affected
Protesters blocked trains in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Odisha. Hundreds of people sat on tracks in Jaipur, Sambalpur and Forbesganj. The effects of Bharat Bandh were visible in Bihar where protestors blocked a train and roads in Sonapur area.
Political Slugfest Begins
The Dalit stir became a political slugfest between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition parties. Even as the Centre filed a review petition on the Supreme Court’s ruling, Congress president Rahul Gandhi slammed the government for ‘oppressing Dalits’. “Oppressing Dalits is in the DNA of BJP and RSS,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted. Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav also backed the Dalit stir.
On March 20, the Supreme Court, in a bid to check misuse of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, ruled that preliminary enquiry in a case under the Act would be done by the DSP to ensure the allegations are not frivolous, and to avoid the false implication of an innocent. The apex court also held that a government official cannot be prosecuted on a mere allegation of committing an offence under the Act without the sanction of the appointing authority.