Nine people were killed and hundreds detained on Monday as violence broke out in several states during protests against a Supreme Court order on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Multiple Dalit organisations had called a nationwide shutdown.
Six of the deaths took place in Madhya Pradesh, in Morena, Gwalior and Bhind districts, ANI reported. Another person was killed in Rajasthan’s Alwar city after the police opened fire on protestors pelting stones, according to News18. Two protestors died in Uttar Pradesh.
The governments of Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh requested the Home Ministry for central forces, ANI reported. Several police personnel were reported to be injured in clashes with protestors.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court refused to list for urgent hearing a petition against the court’s order, News18 reported. Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said there was no urgency to list the case, and that it would be taken up in time.
The top court’s judgement on March 20 protects a public servant from being arrested under the SC/ST Act without a preliminary inquiry. The court had said the move was aimed at curbing alleged misuse of the law. After the verdict faced criticism across party lines, the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry filed a review petition on Monday challenging the order.
As the nationwide bandh turned violent, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati said she supported the protests but not the violence, adding that the government should take strict action against those involved.
The police detained more than 200 people in Meerut, and said they would be booked under the National Security Act. The Meerut Police said a former Bahujan Samaj Party legislator was the main conspirator behind the violence in the city. In Jharkhand, the police detained over 1,600 people in Ranchi and East Sinhbhum districts.
The police in Punjab and Haryana baton-charged protestors as violent broke out at some places, PTI reported. Two people were injured in Bathinda while several vehicles and a shop were damaged in Kapurthala.
A video showed an unidentified man firing shots during protests in Gwalior. The police have blocked internet services in Gwalior district till 6 am on Tuesday and imposed a curfew in some parts of the city. Authorities also imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in Sagar district of Madhya Pradesh.
Several people were injured in Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand, after protestors clashed with the police. In Bhind, some protestors resorted to pelting stones at security personnel. The protest turned violent in Barmer in Rajashtan, where cars were set on fire and properties were damaged. The agitators damaged cars in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, too. A bus was set ablaze in Azamgarh, while a number of vehicles were torched in Muzaffarnagar. Violence was also reported from Hapur in western Uttar Pradesh.
A group of protestors blocked a train in Bihar’s Arrah district and at the railway station in Forbesganj, ANI reported. Protestors blocked the movement of trains in Sambalpur district of Odisha and Jalandhar in Punjab, too. There were protests in the city of Gandhidham in Gujarat’s Kutch district. Shops were forcibly closed in Dehradun in Uttarakhand.
Meanwhile, in Ahmedabad, Dalit groups gathered at Sarangpur area, The Times of India reported. They also protested in parts of Agra. Protestors forcibly shut down shops in Dehradun, ANI reported. An apparel showroom in Jaipur was vandalised during protests.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh appealed to the Dalit groups to remain calm and not indulge in violence. He also asked political parties maintain peace. Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan said. “One can understand if people protest, but why is the opposition playing politics? Parties like the Congress who did not give Bharat Ratna to Bhimrao Ambedkar are now acting like his followers.”
The Punjab government on Sunday suspended mobile internet and public transport services in view of the strike. The internet services will remain suspended till 11 pm on Monday to prevent rumour-mongering on social media, the state government said.
The state government also asked all educational institutions to remain closed on Monday. The Central Bureau of Secondary Education postponed all Class 10 and Class 12 exams in Punjab. In the Union Territory of Chandigarh, exams will be held as per schedule.
Nearly 4,000 police personnel and a company of Rapid Action Force have deployed to Punjab. A delegation of the Punjab Congress will hand over a memorandum to the governor against the Supreme Court ruling, The Indian Express reported.
While passing the order on March 20, the Supreme Court said the move was aimed at curbing the alleged misuse of the Act. As per the order, no public servant can be taken into custody until an officer, not below the rank of deputy superintendent, conducts a preliminary inquiry. The bench of Justices Adarsh Goel and UU Lalit also said a public servant can be arrested only after the authority that appointed him approves it.
The order was criticised by leaders across party lines, as well as members of the SC/ST communities. While several BJP leaders earlier demanded the review petition, the Congress accused the Centre and the Maharashtra government – parties to the case – of not presenting it properly before the top court.