Rail and road traffic got disrupted and properties vandalised across Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha today as violence erupted during protests by Dalit and tribal organisations against the alleged dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Police arrested thousands of agitators in Bihar and Jharkhand during the day-long bandh which threw life out of gear in several states across eastern part of the country.
Though the impact of the bandh was minimal in West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed support to the Dalit cause.
She expressed shock over deaths in violent protests in Madhya Pradesh during the nationwide bandh.
Reports from Patna said that more than 3,000 people were held by the police across Bihar for disruption of public order during the bandh.
In the state, the shutdown was marked by widespread disruptions in rail and road traffic, forced closure of various establishments and vandalism of private and public properties.
The issue also rocked the state Assembly, which witnessed adjournment till lunch break within minutes of commencement of proceedings, followed by a “human chain” formed by Dalit MLAs cutting across party lines who also marched to the Raj Bhavan and presented Governor Satya Pal Mallik with a memorandum on the issue.
“At least 3619 people have been detained by the police across the state. The maximum number of 2500 persons were rounded up in Muzaffarpur, followed by 600 in Kaimur district. Thirty-five persons were held in the state capital,” Additional Director General of Police (Headquarters), S K Singhal, said.
According to police sources, rail and road traffic got disrupted for hours in districts like Patna, Muzaffarpur, Kaimur, Gaya, Jehanabad, Darbhanga, Nawada and East Champaran.
Private properties, railway stations, courts and state transport buses were vandalized by the agitators at various places while forced shutdown and vandalism was witnessed by many commercial establishments like showrooms, coaching institutes and petrol pumps.
The agitators, among whom there were a sizeable number of women and children, carried blue flags bearing names of “Bhim Sena” or similar pro-Dalit outfits.
They also raised slogans alleging that the Narendra Modi government at the Centre was “anti-Dalit” and that there was a conspiracy to deprive them of reservations.
RJD, the Hindustain Awam Morcha and the CPI(ML) – which had openly come out in support of the shutdown – were seen hitting the streets to express support to protesters.
In Ranchi, police had to resort to tear gas and baton charge after the bandh supporters hurled stones on police during the bandh.
Minimum force was used after the bandh supporters hurled stones on the police. Baton charge and tear gas were used to control the situation, a senior police official said.
As many as 777 persons were arrested in Ranchi district, he said but added there was no untoward incident in the district.
In Palamau, about 200 bandh supporters were taken into custody for enforcing bandh in the district.
A total 200 bandh supporters have been taken into custody as they were indulged in forcibly downing shutters of shops, Deputy Superintend of Police Prem Nath said in Medininagar, the headquarter town of Palamau.
In Odisha, vehicular movement was affected in several areas, including Jharsuguda, Sundargarh, Malkangiri, Sambalpur and other tribal-dominated districts, the police said.
Buses also remained off the roads at Biramitrapur, Malkangiri, Kalahandi and Bolangir.
Shops and business establishments remained shut in several areas of tribal-dominated Malkangiri, Kalahandi, Sundargarh and Bolangir districts, the police added.
Activists of the Adivasi Dalit Sena staged a rail roko at the Khetrajpur station in Sambalpur, which delayed some trains, they said.