Five months after Madhya Pradesh witnessed caste violence over alleged dilution of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the ruling BJP is facing heat over the amendment to the Act that reversed the effects of a Supreme Court order concerning the law.
Upper-caste protesters have been targeting elected representatives over the issue. “Bring a sword and slit my throat,” BJP MP Riti Pathak told protesters who gheraoed her vehicle in Biohari, part of the Sidhi constituency she represents, on Monday.
“I tried to reason with them for half-an-hour. I told them I was not the only person voting, my presence or absence would have made no difference (to the passage of the Bill), but they continued to argue,” Pathak told The Indian Express, admitting that it would impact campaigning.
A day earlier, a shoe was thrown at Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan when he was addressing a public meeting in Sidhi as part of his Jan Ashirwad Yatra. While the BJP claimed the Congress was behind the attack and disturbances during the yatra, some upper-caste protesters raised slogans against the BJP for passing the legislation.
Elected and non-elected members of both the major parties were avoiding taking a stand on the protests saying “it’s a sensitive issue”.
A BJP Rajya Sabha member said the protests would die down soon because they were reactionary.
“Most of the protesters are unemployed and are taking out their anger against something that is enshrined in the Constitution. We have only restored what was there in the Constitution for decades,’’ he said, adding that the protests will have no impact on the upcoming elections.
Admitting that he was also targeted by protesters, he said he told the group that he himself belongs to an upper caste.
Over the past few days, the state has witnessed protests in districts like Morena, Bhind, Gwalior, Mandsaur and Neemuch, with upper-caste people — and at many places people belonging to Other Backward Classes — joining hands to gherao legislators, demanding that reservation be rolled back and the checks introduced by the apex court be re-introduced.
BJP leaders, including state BJP chief Rakesh Singh, Bhagirath Prasad, Prabhat Jha, Maya Singh, Rustam Singh and Narendra Tomar, and Congress leaders like Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijaya Singh have got a taste of the protests.
On Tuesday, a Swabhiman Sammelan was held at Gwalior where members of Kshatriya Mahasabha, Gurjar Mahasabha and Parshuram Sena and other organisations gathered against the amendment to the Act. District authorities had taken adequate precautions and no untoward incident was reported.
The state government has also decided to take adequate precautionary measures in view of a bandh called on social media by general category and OBC members on Thursday.
Though no organisation has officially taken responsibility for the bandh call, the state government has decided not to withdraw extra security personnel deployed in cities and towns in view of Janmashtami celebrations. In fact, additional forces were deployed in many parts of the state on the eve of the bandh call given by several organisations.