In the wake of the nationwide shutdown call given by Dalit outfits that are protesting against the Supreme Court verdict on the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the Punjab government on Sunday ordered closure of all educational institutions on Monday and took public transport off the roads. It also suspended Internet services from 5 pm Sunday till 11 pm Monday and requested Army to remain on “stand-by”.
The CBSE said in a statement late on Sunday that on a request from the Punjab government it has postponed all Class 12 and 10 exams scheduled for Monday in Punjab. Exams will be held as scheduled in the Union Territory of Chandigarh and in the rest of the country, it said.
The steps taken by the Punjab government caught many by surprise as there was little build-up to the bandh call. Even members of Congress, which has declared solidarity with the protesters and will hand over a memorandum to the Governor against the Supreme Court ruling, were puzzled at what one senior party man feared might be an “over reaction”.
The Bharat Bandh call was first given by Dalit group Sanvidhaan Bachao Sangharash Committee on Wednesday, and later backed by All India Adi Dharam Mission and All India Adi Dharam Sadhu Samaj. The protest call in Punjab has been given by the state’s Samvidhan Bachao Morcha of 200 Dalit and Valmiki organisations.
Vijay Danav, a member of the Morcha in Ludhiana, who runs the Bhartiya Valmiki Dharam Samaj, said more than 200 unions, including that of sweepers, safai karamcharis, Baazigar community and all committees/unions named after Dr BR Ambedkar, Guru Ravidass and Maharishi Valmiki will be participating in the protest. He said in every city or town, unions would gather in groups around 10 am at a central point and hold a “rosh march” towards the office of the deputy commissioner to submit the memorandums addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh has written to Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra, requesting that the Army be asked “to remain ready for any eventuality”.
(With inputs from ENS, New Delhi)
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