International desk, Apr 03: Protests that swept north India cost at least nine lives today as Dalit groups tried to enforce a nationwide shutdown.In Madhya Pradesh, six people died in clashes, two were killed in Uttar Pradesh and one in Rajasthan’s Alwar.
Violence was also reported from parts of Punjab and Jharkhand. Punjab came to a standstill as the government had the army on stand-by and kept transport off the roads.
The Dalits are protesting against a Supreme Court order, which they say dilutes a law meant to protect the community. The centre has asked the Supreme Court to review the order.
In the central state of Madhya Pradesh, senior police officials told BBC Hindi that six people had died.
Bans were imposed on large gatherings after protesters blocked railway tracks and set fire to vehicles. A curfew has been imposed in some parts of the state.
One person has also been killed in the northern state of Rajasthan, police said.
In the northern state of Punjab, exams have been postponed and all educational institutions, banks and offices shut. The state government has also suspended internet services until 11pm. Hundreds of protesters carrying swords, sticks, bats and flags forced shops to shut in several cities in the state and public transport is off the road.
There have been further reports of clashes between protesters and police in parts the northern states of Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar.
Dalit organisations also staged demonstrations in the capital, Delhi, but police said there were no report of any violence. However, roads were blocked in the city centre, causing lengthy traffic jams.
In Uttar Pradesh, a man died in clashes with the police in Muzaffarnagar. Another person died in Meerut which saw widespread arson and clashes. Across the state, 75 people, including 40 policemen, were injured. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has appealed for calm, saying the Central and the state governments are “dedicated towards the welfare of backward castes, SC & ST”.
The government has filed a petition in the Supreme Court asking for a rethink on the order. “We have filed a very comprehensive review (petition)… senior lawyers will argue (the case) with all authority,” Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said. Sources said Attorney General KK Venugopal will request the Court for an early hearing.