One person was killed, over 70 others, including many policemen, injured while 448 people were arrested as Uttar Pradesh saw widespread violence on a day Dalit groups protested what they claimed was the "dilution" of the provisions of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
One person was killed, over 70 others, including many policemen, injured while 448 people were arrested as Uttar Pradesh saw widespread violence on a day Dalit groups protested what they claimed was the “dilution” of the provisions of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Several towns in western UP saw violence and in Meerut, a former BSP MLA Yogesh Verma, was among those arrested, police said. There were several incidents of violence in Meerut, including the torching of a police post while in the neighbouring Muzaffarnagar, a man was killed and several vehicles were damaged, they added.
“During the bandh, violence broke out in Muzaffarnagar, Hapur, Meerut, Agra and they were the most affected areas. Reports of violence have come from some other districts too. As of now, 448 persons have been detained in different districts. There were no incidents in 90 per cent of districts. We have sounded a high-alert in the state,” DIG, Law and Order Praveen Kumar told reporters. He added that one person lost his life in the violence in Muzaffarnagar.
“We are yet to get the detailed reports. As of now about 35-40 policemen and 30-35 protestors were stated to be injured. Of them three are serious,” the DIG said. Asked about the extent of damage to public properties, the official said the police were yet to do a detailed analysis. “Some anti-social elements were involved in the protests and they created problems. Some of them had illicit fire arms too. We are conducting a detailed probe and also trying to identify people involved in spreading rumours and misleading Dalits on SC order,” he said.
The situation was controlled by 2 pm in the affected districts, he said. It’s normal now, he added. Early in the day, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath appealed to the people to maintain law and order and asserted that his government was “serious towards the development and progress of Dalits”. However, angry protesters pelted stones on buses in the Sagdi area of Azamgarh on the Gorakhpur-Azamgarh damaging their widow panes. They also set afire two roadways buses injuring some passengers, police said.
Director General of Police (DGP) OP Singh said additional force from the Centre. “We have sought more force from the Centre…We are keeping an eye on the situation, which is under control,” he claimed. Urging people not to resort to violence, Chief Minister Adityanath said, “Both the Centre and the state government are dedicated to the welfare of the backward castes, the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes. If there is any issue, one can bring it to the notice of the government.”
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, however, targeted the Centre saying if it had taken prompt steps, there would not have been the need for a ‘Bharat bandh’ and “some anti-social elements would not have got the chance to indulge in violence and arson because of government laxity”. BSP condemns violence but BJP governments need to extend help to the dead and injured without any bias, she said in a statement.
Mayawati said that though she was not in Parliament, her politics and struggle outside will force the Narendra Modi government “to kneel down and change its stance”. The constitutional rights of dalits and tribals are continuously being encroached by the BJP, she alleged.
Meanwhile, a former BSP MLA from Hastinapur, Yogesh Verma, was arrested by the Meerut police in connection with the violence, according to SSP Manzil Saini. Verma’s family claimed he had been wrongly arrested. SP chief Akhilesh Yadav also targeted the Modi government claiming it should have talked to the Dalit leadership in time. Now it seems that Dalits have lost faith in the government, he said.
“It is most unfortunate if someone has to resort to the agitational path for restoring his honour and rights…Baba Saheb has given Dalits their right and no one can snatch it away,” Yadav said in a party release. The Supreme Court on March 20 had banned automatic arrests and registration of criminal cases under the Scheduled Castes (SC) and the Scheduled Tribes (ST) (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
Ruling that no arrest can be made under the Act without prior permission, the apex court had also held that a court can grant anticipatory bail if it, prima facie, finds the complaint is an abuse of the law, false, motivated and intended to blackmail or harass a person. This was necessary, the court had said, to prevent the “rampant misuse of the tough provisions of the law.” The ‘Bharat Bandh’, called by various Dalit groups and backed by various political outfits, demands restoration of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in its original form.