On September 6, several Upper-caste outfits and others from unreserved categories called for fresh “Bharat Bandh”, to protest against last month’s amendments made to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in Parliament.
Bihar, MP and UP the most affected
Reportedly, the nationwide bandh called by 35 outfits linked with upper caste communities, has affected the daily lives of many people, mainly in North India. States like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar are among the most affected.
There were reports of protests being held in Alwar and Kota region of Rajasthan, while schools and colleges are remained closed in Jaipur. According to Hindustan Times, trains were stopped, National and State Highways were blocked, and a few petrol pumps were shut down in Bihar.
The protesters also burnt tyres on the railway tracks to halt trains. Meanwhile, the railway lines were blocked in some parts of Patna, Gaya, Begusurai, Darbhanga, Samastipur, Nalanda, Muzaffarpur, Bhojpur, Sheikhpura and Bhagalpur, as reported by India Today. Some angry protestors also pelted stones at a train in Rewa district of Madhya Pradesh.
Reportedly, in some parts, the upper-caste protesters have also been raising slogans outside the elected representatives’ house and against the ruling BJP government for voting in favour of the amendment in the Parliament after the Supreme Court’s ruling. Swarna Sena held a protest in front of State Bhartia Janta Party (BJP) office in Patna.
IG (Intelligence) of MP Police Makrand Deouskar, told the New Indian Express, that Pushpendra Singh, the son of BJP MLA, Narendra Singh Kushwah from Bhind, MP was taken into custody for violating prohibitory orders, but later he was released on production a surety bond.
However, the police have maintained that the situation was controlled in most of the places. Keeping the Dalit and SC, ST protests (April 2018) in mind, where the incidents of violence were recorded in Gwalior, Chamba and other regions, the police have planned to deploy a large number of security forces to avoid violence.
Yogi Adityanath on “Bharat Bandh”
According to the Finacial Express, section 144 has been imposed in 35 districts of Madhya Pradesh, drones have been deployed for surveillance and to overlook the situation of “Bandh“.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath calling the Bandh “meaningless” protest said, “It (Bharat Bandh call) has no meaning. People have their feelings. In a democracy, everyone has the right to express themselves,” reported The Indian Express. Defending the provisions of the Act, the CM also said that his government would ensure that the law is not misused.
“The BJP government is committed towards the welfare of people and development. We never play politics of caste and religion. The law is to protect the downtrodden. The government will ensure that it will not be misused,” he added.
Why upper caste groups called for Bharat Bandh?
The Supreme Court of India on March 20 2018, ordered certain safeguards against mandatory arrest under the SC/ST Act. The SC bench headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel banned registration of criminal cases and automatic arrest of an accused under the law. While hearing a case from Maharashtra the court observed that the SC/ST Act was grossly misused. Further, the court made changes for the arrest and prosecution of public servants. The bench also observed that a preliminary inquiry under the Act would be conducted by the Deputy Superintendent of Police to cheek that the allegations are not superficial, reported India Today.
After this, on April 2, several Dalit, SC and ST groups called for a Bharath Bandh protest throughout the country.
Rajya Sabha passed a bill restoring SC/ST bill and overturned SC’s ruling
However, the upper house of the legislature, the Rajya Sabha on August 9 Passed the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2018 which overturned Supreme Court’s decision of making changes in the Act, reports the Hindustan Times. The Lok Sabha passed the Bill on 6th August. The central government initiated the bill, which was followed by huge criticism it faced from opposition parties in the Lok Sabha.
This move by the BJP of the court triggered a nationwide protest from Upper Cast groups, demanding the restoration of the Supreme Court judgment that watered down the SC/ST Act.