Dalit protests turn violent in UP, one dead, 90 injured
Violent protests claimed one life and left 40 policemen and 50 others injured in Uttar Pradesh as Dalit organisations clashed with the police to protest a Supreme Court order, which allegedly dilutes a law protecting their rights.
DIG, law and order, Praveen Kumar said one protester succumbed to his injuries in Muzaffarnagar after being fired upon by some anti-social elements. “At least 40 policemen and 50 others were injured in arson and violence in various districts of UP. The police have taken 448 people in custody,” he said.
Rail and road traffic was hit while several trains were either cancelled or running late due to the ‘Bharat Bandh’ by dalits.
West UP region bore the brunt of the protests as police remained on their toes all through the day and resorted to lathi-charge and firing in the air to control the protesters.
In many places, especially Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Agra and Tundla (Firozabad), the mobs turned violent. The state police deployed anti-riot forces to help civil police in containing vandalism.
In Muzaffarnagar, a protester, Amrish, sustained critical injuries in firing by anti-social elements and succumbed to injuries, police said.
“Incidents of stone-pelting and violence were reported from various parts of Muzaffarnagar. Protesters set eight vehicles on fire and damaged more than two dozen others,” police said.
Muzaffarnagar district magistrate Rajeev Sharma said strict action would be taken against people responsible for the violence.
In Meerut, agitators torched a police post in Shobhapur and set a few vehicles, including a police jeep, on fire. Police said superintendent of police (city), Meerut, Maan Singh Chauhan sustained injuries in stone-pelting.
Police said former BSP MLA Yogesh Verma, husband of Meerut mayor Sunita Verma, was arrested with his supporters on charges of inciting violence during the bandh.
Protesters also pelted Hapur Kotwali with, stones injuring a few policemen, including the circle officer of Pilakhua area. Police resorted to lathi-charge and fired in the air to disperse trouble-makers in Meerut and Hapur.
Additional director general (ADG), Meerut zone, Prashant Kumar said: “The police did everything possible to control the situation. Some of them sustained injuries in stone-pelting incidents. Three companies of RAF were deployed in Meerut and Hapur to assist the civil police.”
Protesters also pelted the police and passersby with stones and blocked traffic movement on NH 58 for hours.
Thousands of protesters gathered at Meerut’s Ambedkar crossing and tried to barge into the Collectorate. They made a failed attempt to set lawyers’ chamber on fire but torched a police jeep. Police said the protesters also allegedly thrashed photographers and cameramen covering the protests and broke their cameras.
Protests were also reported from Baghpat, Saharanpur, Bulandshahr and Bijnor.
In Lucknow, several Dalit organisations, supported by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) workers, staged a protest in front of Ambedkar’s statue in Hazratganj area.
The demonstration threw traffic out of gear and the police had a tough time in controlling the protesters who blocked the traffic at Hazratganj crossing.
In the morning, government employees belonging to the ST/ST categories staged a dharna at Rana Pratap Marg demanding steps to check dilution of the SC/ST Act.
In Varanasi, a large number of Dalits marched from BHU gate and submitted a memorandum – addressed to the President of India – to station officer, Lanka, Sanjeev Mishra.
They demanded that there should be no change in the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
“Any move to dilute the Act will not be tolerated. The Act is not being misused. In most of the cases registered under the Act, effective action is not taken by the police,” they said.
Activists also staged demonstrations in Ghazipur, Bhadohi and Azamgarh districts.
Protest turned violent in Jeeyanpur area of Azamgarh where the activists blocked Jiyanpur-Azamgarh road. The police had to use force to disperse the mob.
In Allahabad, Dalits activists from various organisations and the members of the BSP staged protests in the city as well as rural parts of the district to protest against the Supreme Court order.
A group of youths stopped Jammu-Tawi Express on Delhi-Howrah route in Meja while some protesters led by the Bhim Army intercepted a goods train at Prayag railway station.
Some Dalit students sat on a dharna outside PVR cinema alleging misbehaviour by policemen during the protests. Senior police and administrative officials, accompanied by RAF, tried to pacify the protesters but failed.
A group staged a road blockade at Mayo Hall crossing before marching to Civil Lines where they forced the closure of commercial establishments.
Senior superintendent of police, Allahabad, Akash Kulhary said there were no reports of violence from any part of the district but heavy force, including the companies of RAF, were deployed to avert any untoward incident.
Dalit leader Ramvriksh Gautam said protests would continue if the move to dilute the SC/ST Act did not stop.
In Kanpur, thousands of protesters came out on the streets and blocked traffic movement on Mall road.
Members of the Bharatiya Dalit Panther took out a four kilometre march to Parade and then to Bada Chauraha.
President of BDP Dhaniram Bauddh said the dilution of the SC/ST Act was part of a conspiracy to weaken Dalits.
Protesters also staged road blockade in Jhansi, Farrukhabad and Etawah. Sit-ins were organised in Hamirpur, Banda and Mahoba where markets remained opened.
In Gorakhpur, thousands of protesters took to streets and forced shopkeepers to shut their establishments.
Security was beefed up in view of the visit of chief minister Yogi Adityanath for the launch of Dastak campaign from Siddharth Nagar and then from Pipriach block of Gorakhpur.
Police said barring a few minor incidents, protests remained peaceful in Gorakhpur and Basti divisions.
Two Dalit activists of Purvanchal Sena, Devendra Kumar and Dheerendra, suffered injuries during clashes between the protesters and the police. Dheerendra was admitted to BRD Medical College for treatment.
In Moradabad and Bareilly divisions, protests were by and large peaceful.
In Moradabad, protesters entered the railway station and prevented movement of trains. They stopped Delhi-bound goods train.
They also stopped two other passenger trains by sitting on railway tracks. “Garib Rath and Link Express got delayed by over two hours due to the protest,” said additional rail manager, Moradabad division, Sanjeev Mishra.
“We have deployed additional teams of the Railway Protection Force and railway police to prevent obstructions in the movement of trains,” Mishra added.
In Bareilly, members of Dalit groups took out a rally to the district collectorate and held a meeting at two public parks.
Chairman of Dalit Sanrakshan Manch Dinesh Rahi alleged that the SC/ST Act was being diluted at the behest of the central government.
Protests were also held in Rampur, Pilibhit, Shahajahanpur and Badaun districts.
In Agra, members of Dalit groups gheraoed the collectorate and the SSP office and blocked Mahatma Gandhi road.
Protesters also set a bus of an engineering college on fire near Rawli crossing.
They also blocked a number of crossings but the worst affected was MG Road where protesters refused to budge despite assurances by SSP Amit Pathak.
Protests were also staged in Tundla town of Firozabad district.
(With inputs from HTCs in Kanpur/Varanasi/Gorakhpur and Bareilly)
YOGI, MAURYA APPEAL FOR PEACE
Lucknow: Chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Monday appealed to the people to maintain peace and said the central and state governments were committed to ensuring the welfare of SC/ST and backward classes.
“I appeal to all to maintain peace and harmony,” he said.
Deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya also appealed to the people not to get misled by those having vested interests.
He said the government would appeal against the Supreme Court order on the SC/ST Act but people should refrain from taking law into their hands.