New Delhi: Security in Madhya Pradesh was beefed up in various parts of the state ahead of the call for a 'Bharat bandh' on Thursday, announced by several minority rights organisations, against the amendment to the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Bharat Bandh: Section 144 in Madhya Pradesh Districts, Police Gear Up for Protests Over SC/ST Act
Brahma Samagam Sawarna Jankalyan Sangathan's national president Dharmendra Sharma said that about 150 organisations of upper castes and OBCs would participate in the Bharat bandh against the amendments in SC/ST Act. "We will protest peacefully on 6 September. Through this protest, we will demand withdrawal of this black law. All the sections except SC/ST are affected due to this amendment. We will also write letters to all MPs of the country," Sharma had said earlier.
Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI
During the Monsoon Session of Parliament in August, the Parliament had passed a bill to overturn a Supreme Court order concerning certain safeguards against arrest under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe law, with the Rajya Sabha unanimously adopting it amid din on 9 August. The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, which was passed by the Rajya Sabha by a voice vote, had got the nod of the Lok Sabha on 6 August.
The Supreme Court, on 20 March, had diluted the stringent provisions for arrests under the Act, to make sure there were no "false implications". The two-judge bench of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit had said that there were "instances of abuse" of the Act for various reasons.
The Supreme Court's decision saw widespread protests across the country from SC/ST organisations in April, resulting in violence and the death of at least eleven people.
Section 144 imposed
The Madhya Pradesh administration has imposed prohibitive orders under CrPC in four districts - Morena, Shivpuri and Bhind, all three in Gwalior-Chambal region, as well as in Ashok Nagar district in view of the proposed bandh.
Gwalior-Chambal region, one of the sensitive areas, had witnessed a large-scale violence on 2 April this year during the 'Bharat bandh' called by Dalit groups. Makrand Deuskar, Inspector General of Police (Intelligence) told reporters on Tuesday, "Police headquarters have alerted all the superintendents of police in view of proposed bandh on 6 September."
He said the police force allotted to the districts on the occasion of Krishna Janmashtami on Monday, would continue to remain deployed. Madhya Pradesh has witnessed protests against the ruling party leaders at various places in the past few days. "In view of proposed Bharat bandh on 6 September, the prohibitive orders under CrPC Section 144 have been imposed in the district," Bhind District Collector Ashish Gupta said in a press note.
"It is necessary to impose Section 144 this time as the law and order situation in the district was disturbed on 2 April this year when some organisations had given the call of 'Bharat bandh'," he said. The collectors in Shivpuri and Morena districts have also imposed prohibitive orders under CrPC Section 144.
Security tightened across Madhya Pradesh; schools shut in Bhind
Thirty-four companies of the special armed force of police have been deployed in various districts, IGP (Intelligence) Makrand Deuskar said. Madhya Pradesh Petrol Pump Owners Association president Ajay Singh told PTI that petrol pumps will be shut on Thursday from 10 am to 2 pm due to security reasons over the bandh call.
Jabalpur district collector Chhavi Bharadwaj also wrote to the state home department, seeking suspension of Internet services in the district till 6 pm on Thursday. As of now, no formal order has been passed in this regard, and internet services will be suspended as and when required.
The District Education Officer in Bhind has also ordered that schools in the district will remain closed.
Protests have been going on against the amendments in SC/ST bill in parts of the state for the past one week. The protesters staged a demonstration outside the bungalows of Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar at Gwalior and Member of Parliament (MP) Bhagirath Prasad at Bhind. The protesters also staged a demonstration at Higher Education Minister Jaibhan Singh Pawaiya's bungalow at Gwalior.
Upper caste groups protest amendment
Following the amendment to the SC/ST Act, upper caste groups have begun targetting elected representatives over the issue. BJP MP Riti Pathak told protesters who surrounded her vehicle in Biohari on Monday to "bring a sword and slit my throat".
"I tried to reason with them for half-an-hour. I told them I was not the only person voting, my presence or absence would have made no difference (to the passage of the Bill), but they continued to argue," Pathak told The Indian Express.
The protests, taking place ahead of the Madhya Pradesh Assembly polls, are likely to impact campaigning by various political parties in the state.
On Monday, a video showing what seemed like footwear flung close to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, while he was addressing a Jan Ashirwad Yatra rally, went viral. Police officials said the incident was being probed.
On Wednesday, protesters showed black flags to former Union minister and senior BJP leader Prahlad Patel at Tikamgarh when he was addressing the party's OBC workers. Slogans were shouted by protesters outside the venue of BJP's OBC cell's meeting in Gwalior.
Gwalior-Chambal region, considered a sensitive area, had witnessed large-scale violence on 2 April this year during the Bharat bandh called by Dalit groups.