By Qrius Staff
Nine people have reportedly died in violent protests during the ‘Bharat bandh‘ called for by the Dalit community over the SC/ST Protection Act. Deaths were reported in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan as protestors took to the streets against what they believe is a “dilution” of the Act that is designed to protect lower caste communities. Dalit groups had called for a ‘Bharat bandh’ on Monday morning to apply greater pressure on the government to take concrete action.
Additionally, instances of arson, violence, and vandalism were reported in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab, among other states, where governments have ordered for the closure of educational institutions and curtailed communication and transport services. Over 763 people have been detained in Ranchi district and 850 in East Singhbhum district of Jharkhand. Due to the riots over 100 passenger and mail train services were disrupted.
About 1,700 anti-riot policemen were dispatched in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab after the eruption of violent activities. Section 144 was imposed in Haridwar following the protests as well. However, the Central Board for Secondary Education has announced that all board exams were successfully conducted across the country despite the unrest.
Verdict may lead to more violation of minority rights
On March 20, the apex court ruled that public servants accused of hate crimes are to be prosecuted only after approval from the appointing authority and civilian delinquents can be arrested only after a legal inquiry, to be conducted by the Deputy Superintendent of Police to ensure that the allegations are not frivolous.
However, weakening the Act’s provisions is a huge blow and is likely to reduce the fear of the law, resulting in more violations and atrocities committed against the Dalit community. The Congress party urged the government to file a review petition challenging the recent verdict.
Parties support the cause, appeal to end violence
Both Congress and parties from the Left blamed the Centre for the violence caused by the protests and accused the government of not representing the case properly. Congress President Rahul Gandhi tweeted in Hindi saying, “To keep the Dalits at the lowest level of the Indian society is in the DNA of BJP/RSS. Whosoever tries to raise his voice is violently suppressed.” He added, “Thousands of Dalit brothers and sisters have taken to the streets against the Modi government demanding the protection of their rights. We salute them.”
Sitaram Yechury, Secretary General of the Communist Party of India also agreed with Gandhi, saying that the Modi government failed to “present an effective case against the dilution of the Prevention of Atrocities Act.”
Why has it taken such protests for the govt to file a review petition on the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act? If its intentions were honest, why did it not make the case properly in the Supreme Court in the first place?
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) April 2, 2018
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
Union home minister Rajnath Singh tweeted saying he is “deeply pained by the acts of violence and loss of precious lives in some parts of the country today during protests.” Bahujan Samaj party leader and former UP chief minister Mayawati extended her solidarity and support to the protest but strongly condemned the violence it has caused in its wake. “Our party is not behind the violence during the protests,” she said.