As per reports, nine persons have lost their lives and many others were injured in the violence ensued from protests at different parts of the country against the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding changes in Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribes Atrocities Act. Trains were blocked in several places, public properties were vandalised and at some places, violent clashes between the police and the protestors were reported.
Supreme Court on April 3 agreed to an open court hearing on the Centre’s review petition over judgement on the ruling in which it ruled that the court’s decision stands regarding the dilution of SC/ST Act.
Reports of violence from across states
Violent protests on April 2 rocked the whole nation. In some places, the public and private transports were suspended and schools and colleges remained shut.
From states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab curtailed communication, blocking of transport services including trains and incidents of vandalism were reported. Many protesters, including both men and women, thronged the roads with some even carrying swords, sticks, baseball bats and flags, forcing the establishments to shut down. Clashes between the police and the protesters, shootings etc were reported from various places.
According to reports, six people were killed in the cross firing in Madhya Pradesh, whereas two people in Uttar Pradesh and one person in Rajasthan died. Curfew was imposed at several places.
Madhya Pradesh was the worst hit. The maximum intensity of the protests was felt in areas like Gwalior, Bhind, Morena, Sagar, Balaghat and Satna districts. While protesters fired from licensed revolvers in Gwalior, Additional Superintendent of Police Rajesh Tripathi was grievously injured in the mob attack. Schools had to be shut down and the students were sent back to their homes in police vehicles. The Army was called out to get the situation under control. The internet services remained suspended in the Gwalior-Chambal region.
In Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut internet services were suspended till 2 pm on April 2. Former Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA, Yogesh Verma was detained in Meerut. Along with this, about 800 anti-riot policemen were rushed to UP and MP. Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Law and Order Uttar Pradesh Praveen Kumar informed that 448 people were detained in Uttar Pradesh.
The situation worsened in Jharkhand as well, with 763 people detained in capital Ranchi and 850 detained in Singhbhum district.
All across the country, about 100 trains have been affected.
Intelligence agencies are probing Dalit activist Ashok Bharti’s message on WhatsApp asking for a Bharat bandh against the dilution of the SC/ST Act. The agencies are also scrutinizing the e-platform for the spread of agitation.
Reaction to SC’s decision
Leaders like Rahul Gandhi, President of Congress tweeted that he “salutes” the protesters for standing up for their rights.
दलितों को भारतीय समाज के सबसे निचले पायदान पर रखना RSS/BJP के DNA में है। जो इस सोच को चुनौती देता है उसे वे हिंसा से दबाते हैं।
हजारों दलित भाई-बहन आज सड़कों पर उतरकर मोदी सरकार से अपने अधिकारों की रक्षा की माँग कर रहे हैं।
हम उनको सलाम करते हैं।#BharatBandh
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) April 2, 2018
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee appealed for peace and said that she supports the cause.
We are shocked and pained that some of my Dalit brothers and sisters have been killed and injured. We support their cause. I appeal for peace
— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) April 2, 2018
As per The Economic Times, former Uttar Pradesh CM Mayawati said, “I support the protest against the SC/ST Act. I have got to know that some people spread violence during the protests, I strongly condemn it. Our party is not behind the violence during the protests.”
Jai Bhagwan Jatav, a former chief patron of Bhim Army and president of Rashtriya Soshit Parishad, said the social media tools were utilised to gather unprecedented support for the bandh. “No one knows who organised it,” he said.
The Dalit leader said the community was not happy with the government seeking a review of the SC judgement, he said, “Why can’t they bring a legislation in parliament to overrule the SC judgement?”
SC stands ground on the ruling
SC on Tuesday agreed to an open court hearing on Centre’s review petition and said that it stood by its March 20 judgement on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, reported The Hindu. The court also noted that it has only prevented people from arbitrarily getting arrested under the Act.