One killed as Dalit protests turn violent in Rajasthan
A 27-year old protester was killed in police firing in Alwar on Monday as Dalit protests and a call for ‘Bharat Bandh’ led to clashes and violence in several districts of the state.
Mahendra Choudhary, a police sub-inspector in Jodhpur suffered a heart attack after he was beaten by the protesters. Jodhpur collector Ravi Kumar Surpur said Choudhary’s condition was critical.
The agitation by Dalit groups has been triggered by the Supreme Court’s March 20 interpretation of The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989. The apex court had banned automatic arrests and registration of criminal cases under the SC/ST Act, a legislation meant to protect the historically discriminated communities from abuse and discrimination.
The most severe clashes transpired in Alwar, Bikaner and Barmer. At Hindaun City, the protested uprooted railway tracks and damaged the signals. Until late Monday evening, they had disrupted the rail traffic on the route.
NRK Reddy, additional director general (ADG) of police, law and order, said that the violence occurred in most of the districts of the state. “The same pattern unfolded everywhere. Those calling for the bandh clashed with the people opposing the bandh. The protesters attacked shops and vehicles, and even indulged in arson,” said Reddy.
He added that the police had to resort to baton charge and tear gas to disperse the protesters. In addition, over 200 people have been arrested and over 50 policemen have been injured in dealing with the protesters.
The protesters indulged in stone pelting at a number of places which led to policemen sustaining injuries. In addition, two police stations were vandalised in Alwar and vehicles were torched by the protesters. Alwar superintendent of police Rahul Prakash said police fired 60 rounds in the air to rein in the protesters.
Internet services have been suspended in Bikaner, Hanumangarh, Ganganagar and Churu districts until Tuesday 5 pm. In Bharatpur, Sawai Madhopur, Karauli and Dholpur districts, the services remained suspended from 2 pm till 8 pm on Monday.
In Jalore, Jaisalmer, Sirohi, Pali and Barmer districts, the internet services have been suspended indefinitely. The services were suspended in Sikar, Alwar and Udaipur city till Tuesday midnight.
Reacting to the protests, chief minister Vasundhara Raje wrote on Twitter, “The central government has filed a review petition in the Supreme Court. Everyone is urged to maintain peace in the interests of all communities. Our government is committed to the protection of the rights of SC-ST.”
State police chief OP Galhotra said that situation had returned to normal in the evening in most places except for one or two. “We’ll arrest the culprits and legal action shall be taken against them,” said Galhotra, the director general of police.
The protests affected rail traffic on the Jaipur-Delhi and Delhi-Mumbai routes on Monday, forcing the railways’ administration to cancel several trains on Tuesday. Some trains will run from different stations than their origins, a release from the railways said.