Bhopal/Lucknow/Jaipur/Patna: Poll-bound Madhya Pradesh was the epicentre of the Bharat Bandh (nation-wide strike) called by several organisations against the draconian SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act on Thursday (6 September 2018).
The impact of the Bandh was total in the central Indian State of Madhya Pradesh, where the police even lathi (cane) charged the protesters in Shahdol district. SAPAKS Samaj, an organisation of citizens belonging to the general, backward and minority communities, who are opposed to the quota system in its present form; Reservation in Promotion for SCs and STs; and the atrocities Act, has issued a statement condemning the brutal police attack that has left Shekhar Mishra, a local resident, critically injured. SAPAKS Samaj has asked the Government for a judicial inquiry into this incident and immediate suspension of the Shahdol SP Saurabh Kumar.
SAPAKS Samaj founder President, Lalit Shastri today said that SAPAKS is now a force to reckon with. According to Shastri, the pan Madhya Pradesh voluntary support to the Bandh call against the Atrocities Act, clearly shows that the people are now fed up of the vote bank politics of the ruling BJP and the main Opposition Congress. All other parties also never miss the opportunity when it comes to playing the Dalit card. Notwithstanding the trend so far, a third force is now getting consolidated in Madhya Pradesh and this would change the entire political narrative and bring to en end the highly polarised politics in the State. Having been caught unawares, neither the BJP managers nor those who matter in the State Congress unit are ready to acknowledge the fact that they have lost much of their ground before the coming State Assembly election. Hence, the BJP has chosen to create a smokescreen by spreading the message that the agitation against the Atrocities Act has been designed keeping the election in view and it is also being said that the Congress was behind it. The Congress on the other side is trying to regain lost ground by playing the rabidly casteist card. Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, in a latest speech, has said that the Congress party has the Brahmin DNA, obviously to woo the so-called upper caste Brahmins.
While emphasising that the Atrocities Act and reservation in promotion should come to an end, Shastri drew attention to the quota system and said reservation should be on economic basis not on the basis of the outdated caste system. Even before the Constitution gets amended for this purpose, everything should be done to ensure:
- Overall reservation does not exceed 50% as laid down by the Supreme Court of India, and
- Anybody applying for a seat or job under the quota shall not be eligible for general merit seat.
On Thursday, there was widespread support to the Bandh call in MP as Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, while addressing a meeting organised by AJJAKS, an organisation of SC/ST State government officers and employees, had said when the Jabalpur High Court had declared the State Government provision for “reservation in promotion” as unconstitutional on 30 April 2016 that “Koi mai ka lal reservation samapt nahi kar sakta” (no mother’s son can abolish reservation as long as he is alive). This has left those who are suffering the brunt of reservation extremely annoyed and angry.
The Bandh in Madhya Pradesh was total between 10 am and 4 pm. During this period, even the petrol stations remained closed. What is significant is that there was no attempt to instill fear and hardly anyone was forced to pull down their shutters. When contacted by media-persons, shopkeepers and business establishment owners told them that they had chosen to support the Bandh and their establishments had been shut down voluntarily. Almost everyone belonging to the unreserved category and those from the OBC category and the minority communities has criticised the latest amendment to the Atrocities Act.
It been reported that Six policemen were injured during clashes in Uttar Pradesh during today’s Bandh. Schools, Shops and business establishments also remained closed across districts in Rajasthan during the day. In Bihar, train services were affected for some time, especially in Patna, where protesters also held a demonstration in front the of the State BJP headquarters and near the Chief Minister’s residence.
People have equated the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act with the extremely repressive Revolutionary Crimes Act of 1919, that was enacted by the British to extend for an indefinite period the emergency measures of preventive indefinite detention, incarceration without trial and judicial review enacted in the Defence of India Act 1915 during the First World War. A protest against deportation under this Act had led to the Jalianwala Bag Massacre in Amritsar in 1919.