Comparing the recent protests over the amendment to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to the protests against the film Padmaavat last year, Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot said he feels the ongoing protests will soon fizzle out. Madhya Pradesh saw widespread protests by upper caste groups after the SC/ST Act was amended to override a Supreme Court ruling. The issue found traction in the poll-bound state because government employees were unhappy with the state government’s policy of reservation in promotions.
“Why are protests happening only in MP and that too in certain parts?” asked the minister, suggesting that the protests are linked to upcoming state elections. He said the protests were already fizzling out after upper caste groups realised that the provisions of the Act cannot be misused.
“The agitation will eventually die down just the way the agitation over Padmaavat did,” he said.
The film Padmaavat was released late in Madhya Pradesh, weeks after it was released in other parts of the country. The state witnessed protests last year over the movie, with CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan announcing in November that it would not release in the state “till objectionable scenes were removed from it”.
Gehlot, a Rajya Sabha member from the state, had supported Chouhan’s public assertion that no one accused of offences under the Act will be arrested before a probe, and that the Act will not be misused in the state.
Significantly, the Union minister, who belongs to a Scheduled Caste, had spoken against casteism in society at a symposium on Dr B R Ambedkar at Nagda in Ujjain district in 2017.
He had said that lower castes dig wells and ponds, but are stopped from drinking water from them later. He had also said that once idols are installed in temples amid chanting of mantras, the idol makers are denied entry.
Hiralal Trivedi, president of SAPAKS party, an organisation born out of opposition to the government’s reservation policy, said that the protests were not showing signs of waning. He said the next round of protests against the amendment will be held across the state from October 24 to 28.