By Prarthana Mitra
Just as parts of India were recovering from a massive Bharat Bandh last week, called for by Dalit outfits to protest against the apex court’s dilution of the SC/ST Protection Act, another nationwide strike hit several states yesterday, leaving at least 12 injured in Bihar according to news reports.
The latest Bharat bandh was the second in a week and was instigated by anti-reservation groups, mostly from the upper classes, who have in the recent past expressed great discontent over the existing caste-based quota system in jobs and education. Besides Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab also saw clashes between supporters of reservation, and those protesting it.The home ministry and state governments stepped up their security measures with alacrity, in order to pre-empt a repeat in the mass casualty and detainment from the previous Bharat Bandh. Credit: The Tribune
Centre was quick to mobilise security
Protests erupted in several districts of Bihar, even as the state capital prepared itself for a visit from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. ANI reported gunshots fired around 70kms away from Patna, in Bihar’s Ara district.
— ANI (@ANI) April 10, 2018
“More than a dozen people were injured in the violent clashes between supporters of the Bharat Bandh and a pro-reservation group comprising OBCs and Dalits,” a district police official said, according to the Indian Express. According to IANS, thousands of youths opposing reservation to SC/ST and OBCs supported the Bharat Bandh, blocking roads, halting trains, and forcibly shutting down markets in Patna, Begusarai, Lakhisarai, Muzafffarpur, Bhojpur, Sheikhpura, and Darbhanga districts. Later in the day, certain groups also reportedly pelted stones at police officials in Gaya.
How other states dealt with the second coming
The home ministry and state governments stepped up their security measures with alacrity, in order to pre-empt a repeat in the mass casualty and detainment from the previous Bharat bandh. Police were put on high alert in conflict-prone sensitive zones, with Special Task Force (STF) teams deployed sporadically as well.
Rajasthan issued prohibitory orders on taking out processions or protest marches on Tuesday, with authorities also demanding a suspension of mobile internet services. In some parts of the state including Jaipur, shops and business establishments remained shut, and private schools were closed.
Section 144 was reportedly declared across several regions in Uttar Pradesh, with internet services suspended in Saharanpur to avoid any untoward incidents. Lucknow, where security was considerably beefed up, did not report any massive fallout by the end of the day.
However, theIndian Express reports that shops in Ludhiana were shut down by protestors. A clash was reported from Ferozepur later in the day, where Dalit shopkeepers were allegedly forced to shut their shops by ‘general category’ people, resulted in three injuries.
In Bhopal, the call for a strike by groups opposed to caste-based reservations reportedly elicited a “partial response”, and the town saw some shops remaining closed for the better half of the day. Bhopal’s Deputy Inspector General of Police Dharmendra Choudhary reportedly confirmed that the authorities have been monitoring social media networks. He also warned that anyone caught spreading hate messages would be booked under Section 188.
A curfew has been declared in Bhind till April 11. Meanwhile, 6,000 policemen have been deployed in the violence-hit Gwalior-Chambal region till April 15. These security measures ought to deter any miscreants from stirring public sentiments any further, although the bandh hasn’t officially been called off yet.
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