Several Dalit organisations have called for a 'bandh' on Monday expressing concerns over the alleged "dilution" of SCs/STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act following which the Punjab government has ordered the suspension of bus services and mobile internet services.
This comes even as the Government has made it clear that it would file a review petition before the apex court on Monday, challenging the top court's order banning automatic arrest and registration of cases for alleged harassment of SCs and STs.
The petition will be filed by the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry tomorrow, a senior government official said.
Also, Union Social Justice Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot had on Friday appealed to organisations and individuals opposing the Supreme Court's verdict on the SC/ST Act to withdraw their protests in the wake of the government's decision to file a review petition challenging the order.
Meanwhile, in view of the Bharat Bandh call on April 2, the Punjab government has ordered a security clampdown across the state as a precautionary measure in view of Monday's protest.
While ordering closure of all educational institutions and suspension of state-owned road transport services, the Punjab government has asked the Army and para-military forces to be on alert.
Mobile internet services in the state were suspended from 5 p.m. on Sunday till Monday evening in a bid to check rumour mongering on the social media, while all public and private transport will remain suspended during the bandh to prevent any untoward incident, an official spokesperson said here.
The orders were issued after Chief Minister Amarinder Singh reviewed the security arrangements with top police and administrative officials here on Sunday evening. The review was followed by a video conference by the Chief Secretary with the Deputy Commissioners and other senior officials of all the districts.
Punjab has the highest concentration of scheduled castes among states. They constitute nearly 32 percent of the state's 2.8 crore population.
Giving details of the precautionary measures taken by the government, the spokesperson said four battalions of the Rapid Action Force, four of Border Security Force, along with 12,000 additional police personnel will remain on duty Monday to maintain law and order.
"PRTC, Punjab Roadways and PunBus, as well as buses run by private operators, would not ply on the roads through the bandh duration," the spokesperson added.
All the educational institutions, government or private, will remain closed on April 2 as a precautionary measure, the spokesperson said.
The final practical examinations of Class 10 and 12 of Punjab School Education Board, which were scheduled to be held on Monday, will now be held on April 11.
While issuing strict orders to police and security forces to deal with any attempt to disturb the peace and harmony in the state with an iron hand, the Chief Minister reiterated his appeal to the organisations, that have called the bandh not to take the law in their own hands and, in particular, not to impede transport movement in any way or harass commuters.
With Punjab a key route for transportation of essential provisions to the armed forces at the borders, any disruption on the highways could seriously hamper the supply of the necessary supplies, he said.
Amarinder Singh also appealed to the protestors to ensure that the mortal remains of the Iraq victims, that are expected to arrive in Amritsar on Monday, are allowed to be transported to their native villages without any impediment.
He also directed the Punjab Police to provide strict security for the same along the routes, from the airport to the respective native villages of the victims.
Noting that the Central government had already announced its decision to file a review petition against the Supreme Court verdict, he appealed to the SC/ST community should defer its protest till the final decision on the petition comes.
The Supreme Court on March 20 diluted the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (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 apex court said government servants should not be arrested without prior sanction and private citizens too should be arrested only after an inquiry under the law.
But Dalit organisations, including the Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch, and some political parties fear the dilution of the provisions might lead to increase in violence against Dalits.
(With agency inputs)