Fresh violence broke out in Rajasthan’s Hindaun City in Karauli district on Tuesday as a mob of 3,000 angry people from other castes set ablaze the house of two Dalit politicians as a counter-protest against Monday’s Bharat bandh. Meanwhile, the death toll due to Dalit protest rose to eleven after a policeman succumbed to his injuries in Rajasthan and the discovery of one more body in Madhya Pradesh. Curfew was imposed in parts of both the states and mobile internet services stand suspended.
Mob burns home of two leaders in Rajasthan
The crowd set on fire the houses of incumbent MLA from Hindaun City Rajkumari Jatav and former minister Bharosi Lal Jatav, Alok Kumar Vashishtha, inspector general of police, Bharatpur range, Rajasthan told The Indian Express on Tuesday. He added that the crowd tried to attack a settlement of Dalits, particularly people from the Jatav community. Officials also added that 45 people have been arrested for Tuesday’s violence, while 1,000 people have been held in connection with the clashes on Monday.
Police sources also said that when they took out a flag march on Tuesday morning, some miscreants engaged in violence and clashed with the security personnel. The police had to resort to firing tear gas shells – some of which fell on a government school, leading to chaos in which around a dozen schoolchildren were injured, officials said, reported IANS. According to the police, tension also prevailed in Churu and Gangapur city, where the law-and-order situation remained “critical”.
The relatives of Pawan Kumar, who died in the clashes in Alwar on Monday, staged a sit-in protest, refusing to cremate his body. Security has been beefed up in Rajasthan in the wake of sporadic incidents of violence reported from the state. A total of 23 companies of police have been deployed in different towns and flag marches are being carried out in the most-affected areas, state police chief O.O. Galhotra said, adding that normalcy was returning to Rajasthan.
Tension continues in Madhya Pradesh
Curfew also continued in various parts of Gwalior, Bhind and Morena districts of Madhya Pradesh as tension simmered in the state. Two more bodies were found in the state on Tuesday. While the police linked the death of Dashrath Jatav, whose body was found in Bhind, to Monday’s protests; they denied another death’s connection with the protest in Morena. The police claimed that Rakesh Pathak, the 25-year-student leader, was shot dead because of a personal grudge and not during the bandh.
Reports said that there was stone-pelting at the residences of Bhind MP Bhagirath Prasad and state minister Lal Singh Arya. In Bhopal, which also saw protests on Monday, police conducted a flag march and warned people not to take part in any agitation. Gwalior’s Superintendent of Police Ashish told IANS that 50 people have been taken into custody and are being questioned about Monday’s violence. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Home Minister Bhupendra Singh also appealed for peace and reiterated that the government is working towards the upliftment of SCs and STs.
No reports of violence from Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh, meanwhile, returned to normalcy as no untoward incident was reported from the state. Around 650 people have been arrested in connection with yesterday’s violence in the state and 125 cases have been lodged, DIG (Law and Order) Pravin Kumar said, reported PTI. Two people had died in the state during the protests on Monday.
Political blame game
The political war, however, continued with both the BJP and the Opposition blaming each other for the protests. “I wish to inform the House that the Government of India was not party in that case. Through the House, I want to assure the people that there has been no dilution whatsoever by my government, rather after coming to power and examining the SC/ST prevention Atrocities Act, we have taken a decision to strengthen it,” Rajnath Singh said while making a suo motu statement in the Lok Sabha during the Zero Hour today.
BJP president Amit Shah, reached out to the community, in a series of tweets and said “microscopic minority of dejected and rejected political parties” made the people suffer and sought their apology to “Dalit sisters and brothers.” “The BJP’s stand is clear, which I am once again stating – we fully believe in the Constitution given by Babasaheb and the rights it has given to the SC/ST communities. At every juncture and in all possible ways, the BJP stands shoulder to shoulder with the Dalit community,” he said, blaming “vested interest groups” for spreading the panic.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also rejected as “unfounded” the opposition’s charge that the government delayed the filing of a review plea in the Supreme Court against its order on a law on atrocities against Dalits. He stated that the court was closed for six days after the verdict was delivered on March 20. “There is tension in the country and the Congress is trying to fuel it,” he said.
Union minister and Dalit leader Ramdas Athawale accused the Congress and the BSP of trying to incite violence during the agitation. “Various reports say that the violence was incited and the Congress, BSP and other opposition parties had a hand in it. I have met the deputy chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and demanded an inquiry,” Athawale said.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “not uttering a word” on the alleged atrocities on Dalits and tribals. “The Modi government is conspiring to violate the rights of Dalits and tribals by speaking lies and falsehoods. The SC/ST Atrocities Act that was brought by the Congress and Rajiv Gandhi has almost been finished at the hands of the Modi Government and its Law Ministry,” Congress communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala said.
Supreme Court declines to stay its SC/ST verdict
The Supreme Court, meanwhile, refused to stay its recent order on the SC/ST Act and clarified that it had not diluted the provisions of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act but had only sought to protect innocent people from arrest. The court also added that the people who are agitating may not have read the judgement properly and must have been misled by people with vested interests. A bench of justices AK Geol and U U Lalit said it has taken note of the government’s plea for review and will examine its previous order which imposed stringent safeguards on arrest under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
(With inputs from agencies)