At least seven people were killed and many injured in violence on Monday as Dalit protesters went on a rampage during a nationwide bandh against the dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
While five people were killed in cross-firing in Madhya Pradesh alone, one each died in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, according to officials there.
Curfew was imposed in several places and hundreds were detained.
Fifteen companies or 1,700 personnel of Rapid Action Force were rushed to UP, MP and Rajasthan. Two companies of the BSF were sent to Punjab.
Transport, mobile and internet services were hit in many states with over 100 trains getting affected due to protests.
Some states had ordered closure of educational institutions as a precaution.
Incidents of arson, firing and vandalism were reported from many states.
Appealing for peace, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the government was committed to ensuring the welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and guaranteeing them full protection of law. "I am deeply pained by the acts of violence and loss of precious lives in some parts of the country," he said.
In Madhya Pradesh, two died in Gwalior, two in Bhind and one in Morena.
Sources said that one person was killed in Muzaffarnagar in UP, when pro-bandh supporters opened fire while forcing closure of shops. Another person received bullet injuries and was admitted to the hospital, where his condition was stated to be critical.
Police detained nearly 400 people, including former BSP MLA from Meerut Yogesh Verma .
UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath appealed for peace and urged the people not to vitiate law and order.
The CBSE has already postponed Class 12 and Class 10 examinations scheduled to be held on Monday in Punjab at the request of the state government.
The Supreme Court had on March 20 diluted certain provisions of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, in a bid to protect 'honest' public servants discharging bona fide duties from being blackmailed with false cases under the Act.
Western UP districts having sizable Dalit population witnessed large scale violence.
Dozens of vehicles were torched in Muzaffarnagar, Meerut. They also attacked scribes and molested women, sources said.
BSP supremo Mayawati attributed the violence to ''outside criminal elements'' and asked the government to identify such people and punish them.
In Rajasthan, Pawan Kumar, a youth, died in police firing after protesters attacked a police station in Alwar and tried to set it ablaze. "A youth sucummbed to injuries. He along with other protestors had beaten up the police and were trying to burn the police station," N R K Reddy (ADG Law & Order) confirmed.
Meanwhile Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje appealed for peace in the state.
In Punjab, the Indo-Pak bus service too was hit. The Lahore-bound bus from Delhi was made to go off the road at Sirhind, while the Delhi-bound bus from Lahore was stopped at Amritsar.
In Gujarat, though there have been no reports of any loss of life or major incidents of violence, crowds stopped vehicules on highways and in the cities and got into scuffles with the police. —PTI