The call for a ‘Bharat Bandh’ by some upper caste and OBC groups against the recent amendment approved by Parliament to overturn a Supreme Court judgment on the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act witnessed a lukewarm response on Thursday. The protests were largely peaceful in most north Indian states despite some scattered incidents of violence being reported from Bihar and UP. Follow LIVE
Shops, schools and other commercial establishments were closed in parts of Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. In Bihar, train services were affected in Rajgir and Patna’s Rajendra Nagar terminus when some protestors delayed the movement of trains for about 30 minutes, PTI quoted officials as saying.
Protesters gheraoed BJP’s and JD(U)’s headquarters in Patna and blamed the ruling alliance for their ‘betrayal’ to the upper caste communities who voted them to power.
The shutdown had a strong impact in Muzaffarpur, where bandh supporters blocked traffic in the town and on the national highway. They also burnt tyres at many places and clashed with policemen who tried to stop them.
In UP, six policemen were injured during a scuffle with protesters blocking traffic in UP’s Ballia district. Reacting to the countrywide bandh, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said the protest had “no meaning”. “It (Bharat Bandh call) has no meaning. People have their feelings. In a democracy everyone has the right to express themselves,” Adityanath said.
“The BJP government is committed towards the welfare of people and development. We never play politics of caste and religion. The law is to protect the downtrodden. The government will ensure that it will not be misused,” he told PTI in Gonda where he had gone to visit flood-hit areas.
Madhya Pradesh, which was the epicentre of the bandh, saw a peaceful demonstration by protesters after Section 144 of CrPC was invoked in the state yesterday. In the morning, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan appealed to the people for peace, saying, “Madhya Pradesh is an island of peace. I pray that we all progress and no one should try to disrupt the peace in the state.”
In Rajasthan, shops and other businesses were shut in Jaipur, Karauli, Pratapgarh, Udaipur, Pali, Nagaur and other districts. The police detained at least three leaders of the Samta Andolan Samiti, which is against caste-based reservation, as a precautionary measure. There were no reports of violence in the state till this evening.
In Punjab and Haryana, there was little response to the bandh with people keeping their businesses open in most areas, PTI reports said. But in Punjab’s Phagwara shops and commercial establishments remained shut.
In its March 20 judgment, the apex court ruled that a preliminary enquiry in a case under the Atrocities Act would be done by a Deputy Superintendent of Police to ensure the allegations were not frivolous and to avoid the false implication of innocent persons. The apex court had also held that a government official could not be prosecuted on the basis of mere allegation of an offence under the Act without the sanction of the appointing authority.
With PTI inputs