Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot said the protests against the amendment to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act will soon fizzle out, reported The Indian Express on Friday.
In September, prohibitory orders were imposed in four districts of Madhya Pradesh after upper caste organisations and Other Backward Classes groups called for a shutdown against the amendment. Shutdowns and protests were also reported in parts of Rajasthan, Bihar, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh at the time.
“Why are protests happening only in MP [Madhya Pradesh] and that too in certain parts?” he said, suggesting that the protests were linked to the upcoming Assembly elections in the state. “The agitation will eventually die down just the way the agitation over Padmaavat did,” he said.
In January, Shri Rajput Karni Sena and other Rajput groups unleashed violence in at least seven states, including Madhya Pradesh, against Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat, a film that some people claimed distorts the “history of Hindus” and insults the mythical Rajput Queen Padmini. Multiplex owners in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Goa had announced that they will not screen Bhansali’s film.
Gehlot said the protests over the SC/ST Act amendment were already fizzling out after upper caste groups realised that the provisions of the Act cannot be misused.
The amendment to the Act reverses the Supreme Court’s order in March that diluted the Act’s provisions. The order – saying a public servant cannot be arrested immediately after a complaint is filed against him under the atrocities law – had prompted massive protests by mainly Dalit groups on April 2. At least 11 people were killed in the protests that day. According to the amendment, an investigating officer will not require the approval of any authority to arrest an accused.