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Tuesday 18 February 2020

Bharat Bandh by Dalits affects railways, business, students, public & private properties

The strike led to the cancellation of CBSE exams in Punjab while trains were obstructed in Bihar and Odisha; Dalit activists damaged properties in Rajasthan

New Delhi: While the effect of the Bharat Bandh (nationwide strike) called by several organisations for the Scheduled Castes is palpable in northern India, the Dalit activists’ obstruction of rail services has had the maximum impact in some eastern States. The CBSE examinations scheduled for the day in Punjab have been cancelled.

The Dalit organisations are protesting the Supreme Court ruling that observed that the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is being abused. Quite a few small-time outfits have thrown their weight behind the bandh (strike).

The apex court had instructed the Union government to make a rule that would make a DSP-level inquiry into any complaint under the aforementioned law. The court had also said that prior permission would be required to proceed legally against a public office bearer under the said law.

The court order by a two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court followed an observation of “rampant misuse” of 1989 Act “as an instrument to blackmail or to wreak personal vengeance”. The top court allowed an anticipatory bail for the accused in certain cases.

An examination of cases with the police under the law, read with Sections of the IPC, show that the reported crimes against Dalits increased by 5.5% (from 38,670 to 40,801) and those against STs by 4.5% (from 6,276 to 6,568) between 2015 and 2016. Rape and “assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty” constituted the largest number of cases of atrocities against SCs and STs.

However, an analysis of the number of cases under the law that have come for trial between 2010 and 2016, showed a massive spike in pendency while in the number of cases where the trial could be concluded saw a steady decline. These cases have also seen a fall in conviction rates.

This made the court infer that many of these cases were frivolous in nature or otherwise inadmissible in the courts.

Dalit organisations that had given a call for this bandh want the Union government to remove the 1989 Amendment to the law and restore the statute’s originality.

Monday morning saw railway services affected in Bihar, Odisha and Punjab due to the activists’ sit-in demonstrations on the rail tracks. They obstructed train traffic in Forbesganj and Arrah of Bihar. Closet Maoist party CPI(ML) joined the Dalit activists. Bhojpur observed a near-total bandh.

Dalits constitute 32% of the population of Punjab, the highest in any State of the country. As almost the whole province has come to a standstill due to the bandh, the government has ordered a closure of Internet services for the day to prevent rumour-mongering on social media platforms.

Bandh activists blocked the movement of trains in Odisha’s Sambalpur against the Supreme Court decision.

Agra of Uttar Pradesh and Bharatpur of Rajasthan saw picketing by several Dalit groups. Most shops and offices did not open on Monday.

Private and public properties were destroyed by Dalit groups in Barmer of Rajasthan.

On Sunday, fearing disturbance in the law-and-order situation, the CBSE had announced that its Class X and Class XII exams, scheduled for Monday, stood cancelled. However, the exams will be held in Chandigarh as slated.

Under pressure from Dalit groups, the Narendra Modi government has already decided it would appeal to the Supreme Court against the order.

While supporting the decision to appeal against the order, Abhishek Manu Singhvi of the INC has questioned why the Centre lost its case in the Supreme Court in the first place.


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