Road and rail traffic was blocked in some areas of Bihar while some cities of Madhya Pradesh witnessed intense protests during Bharat Bandh, which was called on Thursday to protest against amendment to the SC/ST Act. Shops, schools and commercial establishments were closed in parts of Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, but the shutdown call had little impact elsewhere in the country.
In Bihar, hundreds of members of Swaran Sena and allied organisations such as Brahman Mahasabha, Kshtriya Mahasabha, Rajput Samaj Samiti and Sawarn Sangathan blocked road and rail traffic at Ara, Patna, Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur and Nawada. There were protests outside BJP and JD(U) offices in Patna.
Former Bihar minister Shyam Rajak’s carcade was targeted in Begusarai. Jan Adhikar Party leader and MP Pappu Yadav cried while telling reporters about facing protesters. “My security guards saved me. When I reached Sakra in Muzaffarpur, my vehicle was stopped. I kept saying I support their demands, but they tried to push me and abuse me,” he said.
While no politician from any party attended the protests, some BJP and Congress leaders seemed to lend support. AICC panelist Prem Chandra Mishra said: “The upper caste protesters’ demands should be heard as well.” Senior BJP leader C P Thakur said they were making valid demands. RJD leader Bhai Birendra said the upper castes had been paying the price of voting for JD(U) and BJP.
The bandh got a good response in Madhya Pradesh, with intense protests in Morena, Jabalpur, Guna, Shahdol, Rewa, Sheopur, Indore and Hoshangabad. Home Minister Bhupendra Singh said the bandh was peaceful, barring minor incidents.
Protesters tried to stop trains in Rewa and Guna, forcing the police to open lathi-charge. In many areas, traders kept shutters down while in some parts protesters tried to enforce the bandh.
Samanya Picchada Alpashankhyak Kalyan Samaj Santha, a political wing of employees’ association belonging to general category, backward classes and minorities, alleged that lathi-charge in Shahdol was unwarranted and an office-bearer sustained head injuries.
The effects of the bandh were felt in nearly a dozen districts of Rajasthan including Jaipur, Udaipur, Alwar, Karauli, Jodhpur, Baran and Dausa, where businesses, shops and some institutions were closed and additional police deployed.
At a Bundi village, stones were thrown at a rally. Major markets were closed in Jaipur, where president of Samta Andolan Samiti, Parashar Narayan Sharma and others were detained “as a precautionary measure”. The Samiti is a leading organisation in the state that is opposed to reservation.
The outfits in favour of reservation said the media and OBC community were being misled that OBCs were supporting the bandh. Rajaram Meel, president of Aarkshan Aadhikar Manch, said, “The aim of the bandh is to create a divide between the OBCs and SCs/STs so that the upper castes can continue the inequalities across the social and political spectrum as well as in government jobs. Nowhere are OBCs supporting the bandh.”
There was a mixed response to the bandh in Uttar Pradesh. In Agra, there was a clash between two groups over closing a market in Pinahat town and stones were thrown by both sides.
In Mainpuri, protesters cut railway hose pipes and stopped a passenger train for half an hour. Protesters raised slogans against the PM and the BJP at the party office in Lucknow.