Fresh violence broke out in Rajasthan on Tuesday as a 5,000-strong mob set ablaze the houses of a sitting and a former MLA, both Dalits, even as the death toll from Monday’s nationwide stir by Dalit groups rose to 11 with two more persons succumbing to their injuries in Madhya Pradesh.
While the Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to stay its recent order on the SC/ST Act, which had triggered the bandh call by Dalit organisations that alleged the move diluted their constitutional rights, the government maintained that it was not responsible for any dilution and that it was fully committed to protecting the interests of the backward communities.
Normal life was thrown out of gear in more than ten states, most of them BJP-ruled, with widespread violence during the protests called by Dalit organisations on Monday with poll-bound Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan bearing the maximum brunt.
Counter-protests were reported on Tuesday from Rajasthan, where traders’› groups and members of other castes hit the streets over the damage caused on Monday. In Alwar district, where a man was killed on Monday, people staged a sit-in protest, refusing to cremate the body of the victim.
The houses of a sitting and a former MLA, both Dalits, were set afire by a violent mob on Tuesday afternoon in Hindaun town in Karauli district of Rajasthan, following which curfew was imposed in the area, a senior official said.
A mob comprising nearly 5,000 people set ablaze the houses of sitting MLA Rajkumari Jatav and former MLA Bharosilal Jatav in Hindaun, District Collector, Karauli, Abhimanyu Kumar said. While Rajkumari Jatav is from the ruling BJP, Bharosilal Jatav is a former Congress legislator, who had also served as a minister in the state.
The agitated members of the traders’ associations and upper castes took out a procession in Hindaun on Tuesday and tried to enter the SC/ST-dominated areas, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) NRK Reddy said. “The police lobbed tear gas shells and resorted to cane-charging and firing rubber bullets to disperse the mob,” he added.
Superintendent of Police (SP), Karauli, Anil Kayal said after the incidents of arson and violence, nearly 40 people were detained in Hindaun. According to the police, tension also prevailed in Churu and Gangapur city, where the law and order situation remained “critical.” Curfew was clamped in Gangapur city on Monday night.
In Madhya Pradesh, the death toll from the violence that broke out during Dalit protests on Monday rose to eight with two more persons succumbing to injuries, officials said. The police admitted that one person, who died on Monday, had fallen victim to police bullets. Two policemen were booked in connection with the death of a person in police firing, an official said.
On Monday, a senior police official had claimed that the casualties occurred during clashes between the supporters of the ‘Bharat bandh,’ called by Dalit outfits, and those opposed to it and not due to police firing. However, Bhind Superintendent of Police (SP) Prashant Khare Tuesday said Mahavir Rajawat (40), who died on Monday, fell victim to police bullets. This has taken the nationwide death toll from the protests to 11, including two in Uttar Pradesh.
The eight deceased in MP included six Dalits and two upper-castes Hindus, police officials said. Four deaths were reported from Bhind, three from Gwalior and one from Morena district.
Curfew was still in force in some areas of Gwalior, Bhind and Morena districts in view of the violence witnessed during the bandh, which was organised to protest a recent Supreme Court order that allegedly diluted certain provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, officials said.