Trains were stopped and highways blocked briefly in Bihar while shops downed shutters in some other northern states during a ‘Bharat Bandh’ Thursday against the recent amendment to the SC/ST Act.
Shops, schools and other commercial establishments were closed in parts of Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab but the shutdown call by anti-reservation bodies had little impact elsewhere in the country.
There were scattered incidents of violence, mainly in Bihar, where bandh supporters stormed Patna’s Rajendra Nagar terminus and disrupted the movement of trains for about 30 minutes, officials said.
Trains were briefly disrupted in Rajgir also as commercial establishments remained closed in many parts of Bihar.
Some organisation had called the one-day bandh to protest against the amendment last month to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The amendment bill passed by Parliament had nullified the ‘safeguards’ ordered by the Supreme Court against arrests without a preliminary inquiry under the SC/ST law.
Shops and commercial establishments remained largely closed in Bihar capital’s Patna, but banks and government offices functioned normally.
Protesters gathered before the Bihar BJP headquarters, raising slogans over the “betrayal” by the party. Some of them also headed towards the office of the Janata Dal (United), a BJP ally.
The shutdown had a strong impact in Muzaffarpur, where bandh supporters blocked traffic in the town and on the national highway.
They also burnt tyres at many places and clashed with policemen who tried to stop them.
Cases of arson were also reported from Biharsharif town. Traffic was disrupted in Begusarai.
The bandh call evoked a strong response in Rajasthan where many shops and businesses, schools and other educational institutions remained closed on Thursday.
Shops were shut in Jaipur, Karauli, Pratapgarh, Udaipur, Pali, Nagaur and other districts in the state.
The police detained at least three leaders of the Samta Andolan Samiti, which is against caste-based reservation, as a precautionary measure. There were no reports of violence in the state till this evening.
Most private schools and petrol pumps remained closed in Madhya Pradesh while markets and business establishments in parts of the state were shut. Police said the bandh was observed in a peaceful manner.
Brahma Samagam Sawarna Jankalyan Sangathan’s national president Dharmendra Sharma said about 150 organisations of the upper castes and Other Backward Classes participated in the bandh in Madhya Pradesh.
He claimed the bandh was effective in almost the entire state, particularly in Katni, Vidisha, Sehore, Dewas, Indore, Gwalior, Jhabua, Chhattarpur, Mandsaur, Sagar and Ujjain.
In Chhindwara, the Lok Sabha constituency of Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kamal Nath, markets remained shut.
“Local residents wore black clothes in protest and business establishments remained shut,” Vyapari Sangh president Mahesh Chandak said.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan appealed to the people saying, “Madhya Pradesh is an island of peace. I pray that we all progress and no one should try to disrupt the peace in the state.”
In Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said, “People have their feelings. In a democracy everyone has the right to express themselves.”
Six policemen were hurt when they confronted protesters blocking traffic in UP’s Ballia district. In Agra too, protesters blocked traffic and shops remained shut. But the bandh was largely peaceful in the state.
“The law is to protect the downtrodden. The government will ensure that it will not be misused,” Mr Adityanath told reporters in Gonda.
In Punjab and Haryana, there was little response to the bandh with people keeping their businesses open in most areas, reports said. But in Punjab’s Phagwara shops and commercial establishments remained shut.
Earlier this year, the apex court had removed the strict provision of mandatory arrests under the SC/ST Act.
This decision had triggered nationwide protests by Scheduled Caste organisations, forcing the Centre to bring an amendment to the Act to overrule the SC order.