3 killed in MP as Dalit protesters turn violent

Caste protests across India leave at least four dead

Police try to stop people belonging to the Dalit community as they take part in a protest during a nationwide strike called by Dalit organisations, in Chandigarh, India, April 2, 2018.

Meanwhile, the Centre has filed a review petition on the matter in the Supreme Court, challenging its order banning automatic arrest and registration of cases for alleged harassment of SCs and STs.

In a judgment issued on 20 March, the Supreme Court said that the arrest of an accused under the Act is not mandatory and recourse to coercive action would be only after preliminary inquiry and sanction by the competent authority.

Supporters of the Bhim Army and other Dalit outfits halted over three dozen long-distance and local trains, stranding thousands of passengers.

The "Bharat Bandh" (India shutdown) was called by groups representing the Dalits, formerly known as untouchables, who make up 200 million of India's 1.25 billion population and are at the bottom of the caste hierarchy. Two persons were critically injured in police firing in Muzaffaranagar, one of whom later succumbed.

Although he backed the protests, Mevani said, he was opposed to any damage to public property.

Protesters let by Dalits set police posts on fire, blocked rail tracks and major roads and attacked buses and government buildings. They gave the call for the protests, which were also supported by many political parties and Congress.

While some states had ordered closure of educational institutions as a precautionary measure, incidents of arson, firing and vandalism were reported from MP, UP, Rajasthan, Bihar and Punjab, among other places. Many are first-generation doctors, lawyers, bureaucrats, entrepreneurs and politicians - like former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati. He insisted however that events had been brought "under control".

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A curfew was imposed in parts of Gwalior due to the unrest, Anshuman Yadav, police inspector general for the city, told AFP. The doctors declared him dead on arrival, reported news agency ANI.

A bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, however, said compensation can be paid to victims under the Schedules Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, even without a FIR being registered.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh appealed for peace, while Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government was not a party to the Supreme Court decision on the SC/ST Act and "respectfully" did not agree with its reasoning behind the verdict.

Reports said a police outpost near Meerut in Uttar Pradesh was set on fire.

Vimal Bodh, a Dalit, died of gunshot wounds in Gwaliors Dabra area, the police said.

Dalits are among the most marginalised groups in India, where caste discrimination is outlawed but remains widespread. Last Thursday, a group of people belongs to the upper caste had allegedly beaten to death to a lower caste youth for owning and riding a horse in the western state of Gujarat.

By the end of 2016, some 90 percent of the approximately 145,000 cases involving Dalits were still pending trial, government data revealed.

The Supreme Court ruled on March 20 that the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act - meant to protect Dalits and other marginalised groups - was being misused in many cases.

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