Jaipur: The Scheduled castes (SCs) and Scheduled tribes (STs) Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 allowed immediate arrest and action upon a complaint. Under this law, suspected offenders were denied anticipatory bail too. 2 judge bench of Supreme Court on 20th March, diluted the provisions of arrest under SC/ST Act leading to violence and arson in various parts of the country.
Increasing cases of misuse of the act by SCs and STs have led to this ruling of Supreme Court. Automatic arrests and registration of criminal cases under SC/ST Act have been banned by the Supreme Court and Supreme Court has said that if no prima facie is made, then anticipatory bail must be granted, also, permission of senior superintendent will be needed for arrest. Dalits say this will lead to miscarriage of justice as this judgment of Supreme Court is far away from the intention with which the law was created i.e. to protect the marginalised community against discrimination.
Showing their disapproval for Supreme Court’s ruling, Dalit organisations across the country called for Bharat Bandh on 2nd April. In the nationwide strike, lakhs of protesters blocked various national highways, set dozens of vehicles on fire, blocked trains, clashed with police in various areas of states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Bihar, Odisha and Jharkhand.
Delhi – Dehradun highway was blocked in Uttar Pradesh, leading to death of 2, 3 were seriously injured and 35 suffered from minor injuries. “The Central and State governments are dedicated towards the welfare of backward castes, SCs and STs. It is an appeal to all to not disturb the law and order. If at all there are any issues you can bring them to government’s notice,” said Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Protesters in Rajasthan set vehicles on fire in Barmer, roads were blocked in Bharatpur and in Jaipur many trains were stopped.
26 were injured including 9 policemen and 1 died. Protesters in Punjab hit the normal life in a similar way, Pathankot – Amritsar national highway was blocked, trains in Firozpur and Patiala were stopped. As precautionary measures, Punjab government suspended public transport services across the state. Mobile internet services, SMS services and dongle services provided on mobile networks except voice calls from 5 pm (Sunday) until 11 pm (Monday) were also suspended. Violent protests also erupted in Madhya Pradesh, dalit protesters resorted to stone pelting in Bhind, leading to death of 6 persons. State government imposed curfew in parts of Gwalior and Sagar.
Bihar and Jharkhand also faced similar turmoil. In Bihar, Patna junction railway station was stormed, ticket booking counters were forcibly closed down, 4 trains were disrupted in the East Coast Railways. On the other hand, in Jharkhand, in Palasboni area, on the outskirts of Jamshedpur, a truck carrying miscellaneous goods was set ablaze. However train services were left unaffected in Jharkhand. Blocking roads, forcing shop keepers to shut down their shops by Dalit protesters led to lathi charge in various parts of Haryana, including Yamunanagar, Faridabad, Palwal. A petition has been filed by the NDA government on 3rd April seeking review of the Supreme Court order diluting the provisions of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act.