At least nine persons were killed and many injured in violence on Monday as Dalit protesters blocked trains, clashed with police and set fire to vehicles across several states during a nationwide bandh against the alleged dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
While six people were killed in Madhya Pradesh, one each died in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar.
The Union Home Ministry, which rushed 800 anti-riot policemen to MP and UP, asked all states to take preventive steps and maintain public order to ensure safety of lives and property.
Transport, mobile and internet services were hit in many states with over 100 trains getting affected due to protests, even as the Centre moved the Supreme Court seeking review of its recent judgement on the SC/ST Act, maintaining that the verdict will violate constitutional rights of these communities.
While some states had ordered closure of educational institutions as a precautionary measure, incidents of arson, firing and vandalism were reported from MP, UP, Rajasthan, Bihar and Punjab, among other places.
In UP, one person was killed in Muzaffarnagar and nearly 75 persons including 40 policemen were injured in violent protests in various parts of the state. Police has detained nearly 450 people there.
In Rajasthan, one person was killed and 26 others, including nine policemen, were injured in Alwar.
Meanwhile, in a tragic incident, a child in Bihar's Hajipur died while he was being rushed to a hospital in an ambulance. The protesters reportedly did not let the vehicle move ahead and blocked the road.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh appealed for peace, while Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government was not a party to the Supreme Court decision on the SC/ST Act and “respectfully” did not agree with its reasoning behind the verdict.
Prasad also said the government has filed a very comprehensive review petition in the matter.
Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, a prominent Dalit leader and head of NDA constituent LJP, appreciated the government’s quick decision.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad alleged that incidents of atrocities on Dalits and minorities have increased in the country since the NDA came to power in 2014, while AAP leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal extended his support to the protesting groups.
Watch Video: Is creating violence a right way to protest?
UP: One killed, over 70 injured as Dalit protests turn violent
One person was killed and around 75 others, including 40 policemen, were injured in violent protests in several parts of the Uttar Pradesh on Monday as Dalit groups demonstrated against what they alleged was the “dilution” of the provisions of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
As many as 448 people were arrested for allegedly being involved in vandalism, arson or on other charges while a high alert was sounded across the state’s 75 districts.
“During the Bandh, violence broke out in Muzaffar Nagar, Hapur, Meerut, Agra, which were among the most severely affected areas. Reports of violence have come in from some other districts too. As of now, 448 persons have been detained in different districts. There were no incidents of violence in 90 per cent of districts. We have sounded a high-alert in the state,” DIG, Law and Order, Praveen Kumar told reporters.
One person died during the violence in Muzaffar Nagar, he added.
“We are yet to get the detailed reports. As of now about 35-40 policemen and 30-35 protestors were stated to be injured. Of them three are serious,” the DIG added.
Asked about the extent of damage to public properties, the official said the police were yet to do a detailed analysis.
“Some anti-social elements were involved in the protests and they created problems. Some of them had illicit fire arms too. We are conducting a detailed probe and also trying to identify people involved in spreading rumours and misleading Dalits on the SC order,” he said.
The situation was controlled by 2 pm and is normal now, he said.
Early in the day, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath appealed to the people to maintain law and order and asserted that his government was “serious towards the development and progress of Dalits”.
However, angry protesters pelted stones on buses in the Sagdi area of Azamgarh on the Gorakhpur-Azamgarh damaging their widow panes.
They also set afire two roadways buses injuring some passengers, police said.
Director General of Police (DGP) OP Singh said additional force from the Centre.
“We have sought more force from the Centre...We are keeping an eye on the situation, which is under control,” he claimed.
Urging people not to resort to violence, Chief Minister Aditynath said, “Both the Centre and the state government are dedicated to the welfare of the backward castes, the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes. If there is any issue, one can bring them to the notice of the government.”
The Supreme Court on March 20 had banned automatic arrests and registration of criminal cases under the Scheduled Castes (SC) and the Scheduled Tribes (ST) (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
Ruling that no arrest can be made under the Act without prior permission, the apex court had also held that a court can grant anticipatory bail if it, prima facie, finds the complaint is an abuse of the law, false, motivated and intended to blackmail or harass a person.
This was necessary, the court had said, to prevent the “rampant misuse of the tough provisions of the law.”
The ‘Bharat Bandh’, called by various Dalit groups and backed by various political outfits, demands restoration of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in its original form.
MP: 4 killed as Dalit protests turn violent in state
The Dalit protests on Monday turned violent in Madhya Pradesh, leaving four persons dead and several people, including a sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) and policemen, injured, officials said.
In the wake of the large-scale violence, curfew was imposed in three districts of Gwalior, Morena and Bhind, they added.
In Bhind district, the Rapid Action Force (RAF) was pressed into service to control the violent situation witnessed during the "Bharat bandh" called by Dalit outfits against the alleged dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Incidents of stone-pelting, arson and loot were reported from several parts of the state, Inspector General of Police (law and order) Makrand Deoskar told PTI.
"Two persons were killed in Gwalior, while one each died in Bhind and Morena districts in the violence," he said.
The four persons were killed in cross-firing between those supporting the bandh and those opposing it, the IG added.
Those killed in Gwalior were identified as Rakesh Jatav and Deepak Jatav, he said.
An SDM and a police official were also injured during the protests in the Gwalior-Chambal division, Deoskar added.
A student leader, identified as Rahul Pathak, died in firing in Morena district, SDM Umesh Shukla told PTI.
Pathak was allegedly shot by the agitators and he succumbed to the injuries while being taken to a hospital, he said.
As the violence escalated, curfew was imposed in the entire city of Morena, the SDM added.
The protesters also stopped a train -- the Chhattisgarh Express -- at Morena for a few hours, the police said.
Curfew was also imposed in Gwalior and Bhind districts following violence, officials said.
In Bhind, the specialised anti-riot force, RAF, was pressed into service to control the situation, Deoskar said.
Earlier, Bhind Superintendent of Police (SP) Prashant Khare had said the Army was also called out, but the IG clarified that it was the RAF which was pressed into service.
Reports of violence between the supporters of the bandh and those opposing it were received from Balaghat, Sagar and Datia districts, where prohibitory orders under section 144, CrPC were clamped, Deoskar said.
Gwalior Commissioner B M Sharma said, "Curfew has been imposed in several parts of Gwalior city, following violence during the protests."
Tahtipur, Gola Ka Mandir, Hazira and Morar police station areas in Gwalior were brought under the ambit of the curfew, a senior official said.
Curfew was also clamped in Bhind city and the Mehgaon, Lahar, Gohad and Machand areas of the district, the Bhind SP said.
A man, identified as Mahavir Singh (32), died in firing in Bhind district, while two others suffered serious injuries and were referred to a hospital in Gwalior, Bhind's Chief Medical and Health Officer J P S Kushwaha said.
In Jhabua, the protesters looted shops during the agitation, triggering tension in the tribal town, eyewitnesses said.
However, Jhabua SP Mahesh Chandra Jain said no incident of robbery took place during the protests, adding that the situation was peaceful in the district.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan appealed to the protesters to maintain peace as the Centre had filed a review petition in the Supreme Court on its recent ruling as regards the SC/ST Act.
Protests were also held in state capital Bhopal with agitators blocking a road at the Board Office Square, near the statue of Dalit icon B R Ambedkar.
A large number of vehicles were damaged, several of them torched by the protesters, eyewitnesses said.
The Supreme Court had, on March 20, diluted certain provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, in a bid to protect "honest" public servants discharging bona fide duties from being blackmailed with false cases under the Act.
The verdict is being widely criticised by Dalits and the Opposition, who claim that the dilution of the Act will lead to more discrimination and crimes against the backward community.
Rajasthan: 1 dead, 26 injured in Dalit protests
One person was killed and 26 others, including nine policemen, were injured on Monday in Khairthal in Rajasthan's Alwar district during Dalit protests against the Supreme Court order on the SC/ST Act, officials said.
The 28-year-old deceased was identified as, Pawan Jatav, son of a former sarpanch.
The body has been kept in mortuary for post-mortem, principal medical officer of Alwar district hospital, Dr Bhagwan Sahay said.
Eighteen others injured were undergoing treatment at the hospital, including one policemen, Sahay said.
Khairthal police station SHO, Jitendra Kumar said that the police resorted to firing after a mob attacked and opened fire on them, while torching a vehicle and a store in the police station.
He said that nine policemen, including one deputy superintendent of police, one head constable, and six constables were injured in stone-pelting.
Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha: Normal life hit in three eastern states
Normal life was affected in Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha on Monday due to disruptions in rail and road traffic, forced closure of offices and vandalism of properties during the "Bharat Bandh" called by Dalit and tribal organisations against the alleged dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Large-scale protests were witnessed in various parts of Bihar.
According to the police, the bandh supporters stormed the Patna Junction railway station, forcibly closed the ticket counters and squatted on railway tracks, disrupting the movement of a number of trains.
At the Bhikhna Pahari locality in Patna, students came to blows with the bandh supporters, who forced the closure of numerous coaching institutes in the area.
Reports of rail traffic disruption also came from districts such as Darbhanga, Gaya, Jehanabad, Begusarai, Bhojpur and Araria.
Long queues of vehicles, stranded on account of road blockades at various spots, were seen on the national and state highways.
In Darbhanga, the bandh supporters stormed the premises of a court and indulged in vandalism of properties. The glass panes of a showroom were smashed by the agitators at Gopalganj.
The protests in Purnea were notable on account of large-scale participation of women.
The bandh supporters allegedly beat up the locals in Nawada, damamged the vehicle of a block development officer at Mokama in rural Patna and clashed with the police in Rohtas.
At most of the places, the agitators were seen carrying blue flags bearing the name of Bhim Sena. Some of the mainstream political parties in Bihar such as the RJD and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi's Hindustani Awam Morcha have announced support to the shutdown.
The issue also rocked the state Assembly, which was adjourned till lunch break within minutes of commencement of proceedings.
MLAs from the opposition parties as well as some from the ruling side demanded that a resolution be passed in the House, urging the Centre to take adequate measures to undo the recent Supreme Court order on arrests under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
A report from Jharkhand, quoting the police, said a loaded truck was set ablaze by the agitators in the Palasboni area, on the outskirts of Jamshedpur.
Most of the shops downed shutters after the agitators took to the streets to enforce the bandh in the tribal-dominated state.
A total of 652 protesters were rounded up from various parts of Jamshedpur, Deputy Superintendent of Police (CCR) Sudhir Kumar said.
In Palamu district, around 200 bandh supporters were taken into custody for disturbing peace.
"The bandh supporters were taken into custody as they were forcibly trying to down the shutters of shops," Palamu Deputy Superintendent of Police Prem Nath said.
Barring sporadic incidents, no case of violence was reported from the area, Palamu Range Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police Vipul Shukla said.
In Dumka and Pakur districts too, the police detained a large number of protesters when they were trying to enforce the bandh at public places and market areas, Dumka Town police station in-charge Devbrat Poddar said.
Train services, however, remained unaffected by the bandh in the Tatanagar section of Chakradharpur division, sources in the railways said.
In Odisha, vehicular movement was affected in several areas, including Jharsuguda, Sundargarh, Malkangiri, Sambalpur and other tribal-dominated districts, the police said.
Buses also remained off the roads at Biramitrapur, Malkangiri, Kalahandi and Bolangir.
Shops and business establishments remained shut in several areas of tribal-dominated Malkangiri, Kalahandi, Sundargarh and Bolangir districts, the police added.
Activists of the Adivasi Dalit Sena staged a rail roko at the Khetrajpur station in Sambalpur, which delayed some trains, they said.
The Adhikar Surakhya Manch, the Adivasi Mulabasi Bancaho Manch and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) extended support to the bandh.
At Bhubaneswar, activists of different Dalit organisations put up road blockades near the Vani Vihar, Jayadev Vihar and Acharya Vihar areas.
Punjab, Haryana: Protests by Dalit organisations turn violent in two northern states
Normal life was paralysed as violence erupted at many places in Punjab and Haryana while rail and road traffic too was adversely affected as Dalit organisations staged protests alleging "dilution" of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Police had to resort to cane charging in several towns after protesters indulged in stone-pelting and vandalism, blocking roads and squatting on rail tracks in the two states, officials said. At least 50 persons were injured in the violence, officials said.
In view of the 'Bharat Bandh' call given by Dalit organisations, the Congress-led Punjab government had ordered closure of educational institutions, suspended bus services, and curtailed mobile and Internet services. In the neighbouring BJP-ruled Haryana, there were no orders to shut schools or suspend bus services.
However, tight security arrangements were in place in both the states and their common capital - Chandigarh.
The Punjab government had yesterday itself ordered a security clampdown as a precautionary measure with the Army and paramilitary forces asked to be on standby.
Protesters squatted on railway tracks at a few places in Punjab and Haryana, crippling rail traffic, officials of the Ambala and Ferozepur rail division told PTI.
At many places, they burnt tyres on roads and blocked highways.
At Kaithal in Haryana, a protesting mob resorted to stone pelting and damaged a railway engine, police said. Prior to that, they protestors had marched through the streets after which there were some reports of alleged vandalism.
The Kaithal Police resorted to 'lathicharge' and lobbed tear-gas shells to disperse the protesters, they said. Around 10 policemen were injured in the incident, they said.
Protests also turned violent in Faridabad, where a train was reportedly pelted with stones.
Marches were taken out by Dalit activists in Jalandhar, Patiala, Sangrur, Hoshiarpur, Ropar, Bathinda, Ferozepur, Kapurthala, Phagwara and other places in Punjab, and at Panchkula, Ambala, Kaithal, Hisar, Karnal, Rohtak, Yamunanagar, Bhiwani, Sirsa, Faridabad and Gurgaon in Haryana as well as in Chandigarh.
Markets across the two states wore a deserted look as shops and other commercial establishments remained closed while vehicles largely remained off the roads. In some towns 'lathi'-weilding protesters marched through the bazaars.
The Indo-Pakistan bus service, 'Sada-e-Sarhad', that runs between Delhi and Lahore was also disrupted. A Lahore-bound bus was halted at Sirhind and a Delhi-bound bus at Amritsar for several hours, police said.
In Punjab's Bathinda, two persons were injured in a clash between the protesters and shopkeepers near Mehna Chowk.
In Kapurthala, the protesters allegedly damaged about a dozen two-wheelers, smashed window panes of a lawyer's car and vandalised a chemist shop, police said.
The agitators also disrupted traffic on the Kapurthala-Ferozepur section by staging a 'dharna' on the rail track at the Khojewal and Kapurthala railway stations.
Kapurthala-Jalandhar, Kapurthala-Nakodar, KapurthalaSultanpurlodhi and Subhanpur and Kartarpur were among the roads blocked, police said. The railway track was also blocked at a crossing in Jalandhar while the Jalandhar-Hoshiarpur road was also blocked for a while at Nasrala, police said.
In Karnal, Haryana, protesters held up a train for several hours, with some climbing over its roof while others squatted on the track.
At Bhiwani and Faridabad, protesters barged into shopping malls to force their closure while stone pelting and violence was reported from Jagadhari, Jind and Hisar. Protesters also blocked the Ambala-Hisar highway near Ambala City and NH-1 near Ambala Cantt for about an hour.
Across the two states, thousands of Dalit protestors, backed by various political outfits, social and religious bodies, took out marches to protest what they claimed was the dilution of the Act.
They burnt effigies of the NDA-led Centre, alleging it had failed to protect the interests of the Dalits.
The Supreme Court had on March 20 "diluted" certain provisions of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, in a bid to protect 'honest' public servants discharging bona fide duties from being blackmailed with false cases.
The verdict was criticised by the Dalits and the Opposition, who claimed this could lead to more discrimination and crimes against the community.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had ordered that schools, colleges and other educational institutions would remain shut on Monday, while the Internet services were suspended from 5 pm yesterday till 11 pm on the day.
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) too had postponed Class 12 and Class 10 examinations at the request of the state government.
As part of the elaborate security measures, four battalions each of the Rapid Action Force and the Border Security Force, and 12,000 additional police personnel have were put on duty in the state to maintain law and order, an official spokesperson said.
The Supreme Court had on March 20 diluted certain provisions of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, in a bid to protect ‘honest’ public servants discharging bona fide duties from being blackmailed with false cases under the Act.
The verdict is being widely criticised by the Dalits and the Opposition who claim that the dilution of the Act will lead to more discrimination and crimes against the backward community.
In Patna, protesters stormed the railway station, forced closure of ticket counters and squatted on tracks disrupting movement of a number of trains.
Normal life was also affected in several parts of Odisha where activists of different Dalit groups put up road blockades.
Major towns and cities of Gujarat also witnessed protests while civic-run transport services were halted after some of the buses were targeted by agitators.