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Rail Traffic Hit, Several Arrested as Madhya Pradesh Rallies Behind Bharat Bandh Call

The faceless agitation backed by almost 40 organisations with Samanya Pichhra Alpsankhyak Kalyan Samaj Sanstha (SAPAKS) in the lead drew massive support across the state. Contrary to the government’s claims, large gatherings were witnessed in various cities despite the imposition of Section 144 of the CrPC in several districts.

Vivek Trivedi | News18

Updated:September 6, 2018, 9:52 PM IST
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Rail Traffic Hit, Several Arrested as Madhya Pradesh Rallies Behind Bharat Bandh Call
Members and supporters of Karni Sena and other upper-caste organisations, participate in a protest over the recent amendment to the SC/ST Act in Bhopal on Thursday. (PTI)
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Bhopal: The unprecedented volunteer response for the Bharat Bandh in Madhya Pradesh, especially in remote and tribal-dominated districts, has brought the ruling BJP and the Congress on the same page so far as supporting the recent amendments to the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is concerned.

The faceless agitation backed by almost 40 organisations with Samanya Pichhra Alpsankhyak Kalyan Samaj Sanstha (SAPAKS) in the lead drew massive support across the state. Contrary to the government’s claims, large gatherings were witnessed in various cities despite the imposition of Section 144 of the CrPC in several districts.

Superintendent of police Shahdol Kumar Saurabh faced flak as he led a lathicharge on protesters, seriously injuring one of them, which led to more intense demonstrations. After a gherao of the collectorate, collector Anubha Sinha, who had said she did not order the lathicharge, ordered a probe into the incident. The SAPAKS handed a letter to the home minister seeking the SP’s removal in Bhopal.

In neighbouring Rewa, protesters pelted stones at the police and a New Delhi-bound train. Several demonstrators were arrested and a mob also attacked the police control room. However, the SAPAKS claimed that a rival group was responsible for the assault.

At Ashoknagar, angry protesters blocked rail tracks for hours and took to the streets, tearing political posters and banners in the process. Similar scenes were witnessed in chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s home town Sehore.

In Bhind, the worst affected during the April 2 bandh, supporters pelted stones at the police anti-rioting vehicle before being chased away by the cops. Pushpendra Singh, son of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Narayan Singh Kushwah, was arrested during the protests and later released on submission of bail bond. Disruption of rail traffic was also reported in Anuppur district as protesters sat on tracks.

Karni Sena members protested at home minister Bhupendra Singh’s bungalow in Bhopal, while Brahma Samaj workers demonstrated in the Chuna Bhatti area against MPs who had extended their support to the bill. The flower shop of Kartikeya, Chouhan’s son, was also closed during the bandh.

Major markets remained closed in Indore but defying prohibitive orders, hundreds of protesters took to the streets. Late in the evening, demonstrators clashed with police in Guna and 23 were arrested.

The bandh was also effective in the tribal areas of Shahdol, Mandla, Anuppur, Umaria, Jhabua, Alirajpur, Dhar and others. Protests were reported from Sagar, Damoh, Satna, Jhabua, Ratlam, Gwalior, Vidisha, Rajgarh, Ujjain and others.

“Barring some minor incidents, the bandh remained peaceful. The SPs and collectors handled local law and order issues,” IG (intelligence) Makrand Deuskar said in Bhopal. Some flare-ups were witnessed in Rewa, Satna, Alirajpur, Guna, Bhind, Ashonknagar, Morena, Shahdol, Khandwa and Alirajpur, said the IG.

“Stone pelting was witnessed in Guna’s Aron town, clash at Shahdol, rail traffic disruption at Ashok Nagar and similar attempt in Rewa, stone pelting at police control room in Rewa and so on,” he said, adding members of Jai Adivasi Yuva Sangthan kept protesting in Alirajpur as their banner was removed by the municipality on Wednesday. The officer, however, said he had no details of inter-community clashes in Mahidpur town of Ujjain district. The exact number of arrests and detentions is yet to be compiled, he added.

Calling the bandh peaceful, the home minister accused the Congress of having double standards, adding that dialogue could help resolve any issue.

Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said his government stood for development of every backward section of every community. When asked about his earlier speech where he used the phrase ‘Mai ka Laal’, he just smiled and folded his hands.

Several other BJP leaders, including finance minister Jayant Malaiya and Prahlad Patel, were seen avoiding media queries.

Calling the response to the bandh beyond expectations, Dr Hiralal Trivedi, patron of SAPAKS MP, said protests would continue. “The response was heartening in remote tribal districts and protesters showed restraint in most places.”

The top leadership of the Congress maintained a studied silence on the issue and did not issue any statement on the bandh.
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