Normal life was disrupted in various parts of Bihar and UP after over 35 upper caste bodies called for an all-India Bharat Bandh on Thursday. While train services were affected in a few areas of Bihar, including Patna and Rajgir town, six cops were also injured in Uttar Pradesh. Evoking strong reactions, the anti-reservation bandh protesters jammed national highways and blocked trains for hours in Bihar. Most private schools remained closed in MP but the bandh was observed in a peaceful manner. People also kept their shops closed as a mark of protest in Rajasthan. Businesses, schools and other institutions were also closed for the day.
The upper caste organisations had called for Bharat Bandh against the Parliament amendment to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act after some of its provisions were read down by the Supreme Court, which was construed as its dilution. In wake of the shutdown call, state governments had issued prohibitory orders under Section 144 (no assembly of more than four people in an area).
The train services were affected significantly in Bihar after some protesters boarded trains and obstructed officials from doing their duties. Major trains stuck at stations included Vaishali Superfast Express at Karpurigram, Bihar Sampark Kranti Express at Samastipur, Kathgodam Express at Dubha, Samastipur-Muzaffarpur Passenger at Samastipur, Amritsar Jainagar Shahid Express at Darbhanga, and Darbhanga-Lokmanya Tilak Terminus Pawan Express at Darbhanga.
The Congress party has said that the protests against the SC/ST Act are nothing but the BJP's ploy to invoke some emotional issue. Calling the bandh a BJP-sponsored protest, Congress MP Deepak Babaria said: "The BJP owes an explanation to the country. What about the corruption issue? They are creating this gimmick to divert attention." BJP MP and National Chairman of the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations, Udit Raj, said that those protesting against the Act have a problem with the BJP. He also junked reports on the stopping of trains' services. "There is no great effect of the stir. Even 10 people can block the road and stop the trains," he said.
Meanwhile, the Congress party has said that it will observe a Bharat Bandh against fuel price hike on September 10. Party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the party has called 'Bharat Bandh' against the Rs 11-lakh crore "loot" by Modi government on fuel prices. He tweeted that though crude oil prices are lower ($73-77 per barrel) as compared to May when crude oil was priced at $106.24 per barrel, the government was not still doing anything to contain the increasing fuel prices.
(Edited by Manoj Sharma)