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Bharat Bandh: Death toll 07, Dalits protest across India against dilution of SC/ST Act

Monday April 2, 2018 8:39 PM, & Agencies

Bharat Bandh Dalit

Mumbai/New Delhi: Seven people have died after Bharat Bandh called by various Dalit organisations on Monday turned violent with people resorting to stone pelting, damaging properties across various states including UP, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Bihar, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Maharashtra.

While five persons died in Madhya Pradesh, one died in Rajasthan’s Alwar one died in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzzafarnagar.

A number of Dalit organisations called the nationwide bandh against the Supreme Court order on the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act banning automatic arrest and registration of cases. The protesters, who were demanding that the provisions related to immediate arrest be restored, gathered at Mandi House in New Delhi and blocked the road outside the metro station, bringing traffic to a halt and inconveniencing commuters travelling towards ITO and other stretches.

Anger also prevailed in Bihar and Jharkhand where protestors in the morning blocked several trains affecting railway services. In Punjab, hundreds of protesters carrying swords, sticks, baseball bats and flags forced shops to shut in Jalandhar, Amritsar and Bathinda. Traffic in and around Chandigarh was hit as protesters blocked highways and arterial roads.

The Central Board of Seocndary Education (CBSE) was forced to cancel the ongoing Class 12 and Class 10 board exams because of the violent protests in Punjab - the state with a sizeable population of dalits. The CBSE new dates to conduct today's papers will be announced soon.

In Uttar Pradesh, Meerut saw widespread arson and clashes between police and protesters whereas in Hapur protesters blocked the highway. BJP MP Savitribai Phule also joined the protesters in Uttar Pradesh. "My community is above evrything for me, immaterial wheather I remain MP or not", she said.

Normal life was disrupted in various parts of Gujarat today as protests by Dalits against alleged dilution of the SC/ST Act turned violent and police resorted to teargas-shelling and lathicharge at some places, said officials. Agitators disrupted road and rail traffic, and asked commercial establishments to down their shutters as they went around enforcing a nationwide bandh called by various Dalit groups, according to PTI.

The police lobbed teargas shells and resorted to cane-charge to scatter a mob in Sarangpur area of Ahmedabad, an official of the city police control room said. The area, which has a sizeable Dalit population, saw some protesters forcing shop owners to close their establishments and some locals also alleged incidents of vandalism and loot.

Angry protests are also reported from Ranchi in Jahrkhand where a number of students hit the streets and blocked highway and also disrupted the railway service.

Last Wednesday, a delegation of opposition parties led by Congress President Rahul Gandhi had met President Ram Nath Kovind to raise their concerns on dilution of the provisions of arrest in the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and seek his intervention.

“There is great unease and a feeling of insecurity amongst the members of Dalit community and other oppressed classes after the said judgment was delivered. If immediate steps are not taken by the government, then, we are afraid, this may turn into something not less than a national disaster”, the delegation had said to the president.

Meanwhile, the government has moved a review petition in the Supreme Court today. Speaking to reporters, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the Centre has no intention of removing the provision of reservation for minorities.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the government "differs" with the reasoning given by the Supreme Court judgement "virtually redoing the entire architecture of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act". He said it is important to note that the government was not firmly made a party in this case and only allowed to make certain oral submissions.

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