Bharat Bandh: Dalit protesters blocked railway tracks in several places.
New Delhi: Protests that swept north India cost at least nine lives on Monday as Dalit groups tried to enforce a nationwide shutdown. In Madhya Pradesh, six people died in clashes, two were killed in Uttar Pradesh and one in Rajasthan's Alwar. Violence was also reported from parts of Punjab and Jharkhand. Punjab came to a standstill as the government had the army on stand-by and kept transport off the roads. The Dalits are protesting against a Supreme Court order, which they say dilutes a law meant to protect the community. The centre has asked the Supreme Court to review the order.
Here is your 10-point cheatsheet on Bharat Bandh called against Supreme Court's order on SC/ST Act
- In Madhya Pradesh, a student leader and five others died during clashes several others were injured. In Gwalior, prohibitory orders banning large gatherings were imposed as protesters blocked railway tracks and set fire to vehicles.
- One person died in police firing in Rajasthan's Alwar as rampaging protesters clashed with the police. Clashes and arson were also reported from a few other towns, including state capital Jaipur and Barmer. In Jharkhand capital Ranchi, the police lathicharged protesters.
- In Uttar Pradesh, a man died in clashes with the police in Muzaffarnagar. Another person died in Meerut which saw widespread arson and clashes. Across the state, 75 people, including 40 policemen, were injured. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has appealed for calm, saying the Central and the state governments are "dedicated towards the welfare of backward castes, SC & ST".
- The government has filed a petition in the Supreme Court asking for a rethink on the order. "We have filed a very comprehensive review (petition)... senior lawyers will argue (the case) with all authority," Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said. Sources said Attorney General KK Venugopal will request the Court for an early hearing.
- Train services were hit in parts of Bihar, Odisha, Punjab and Rajasthan as protesters blocked railway tracks. In some areas, highways were blocked too.
- 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 Punjab government has taken extensive security measures that include shutting of schools and colleges, postponing Board exams and suspending mobile internet services till 11 pm. Banks and offices are shut and transport is off the roads. Security has been stepped up in towns like Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Nawanshahr and Hoshiarpur, which have the highest Dalit population.
- Lawmakers from Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's party, a BJP ally, declared open support for the strike. In state capital Patna, hundreds of Bhim Army workers took to the streets to enforce a shutdown. Protests were also held in various towns of Haryana and Bengal capital Kolkata.
- The shutdown has been called by Dalit groups against a Supreme Court order of March 20. Maintaining that the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was being misused in certain cases, the Supreme Court changed two key provisions of the law, stopping the immediate arrest an accused and introducing a provision for bail.
- Dalit groups said the court could have come to a different conclusion had the Union government highlighted the high rate of atrocities on the community and the abysmally low rate of conviction. Most opposition parties, including the Congress, have sided with the Dalits. Last week, a delegation of NDA lawmakers, led by Ram Vilas Paswan, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
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