LUCKNOW: The Bharat bandh call given by the Upper castes and OBC Organisations against the amendment in SC/ST Act evoked a mixed response in Uttar Pradesh except in Agra where the protest turned violent when protestors and supporters of the Act came face-to-face and scuffled on Thursday.
Both the groups indulged in heavy brick batting against each other, injuring scores but no loss of life was reported from anywhere in the state.
However, major business establishments remained closed throughout the day in the bandh. While the normal life took a hit in Agra and adjoining districts in western UP, the impact of the bandh was palpable in eastern UP as well.
However, Lucknow remained more or less peaceful with shops closed till afternoon. Having learnt the lessons from the previous bandh observed by the Dalit organisations on April 2 against Supreme Court's order on SC/ST Act, the state police left nothing to chance and had clamped Section 144 in over a dozen districts of eastern and western UP to avert any untoward incident.
Besides, a high alert was sounded across the state. Notably, April 2 bandh had witnessed large-scale violence, vandalism and unrest, and resulted in the death of two persons.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said that in democracy everyone had the right to expression, however, the Bharat Bandh called by upper castes and OBC organisations against the SC/ST Act had no meaning.
"It has no meaning though in a democracy everyone has the right to expression," he claimed.
The CM reiterated his government's commitment to ensure welfare of all the sections of society.
"We never indulge in politics of caste and religion. However, the deprived and downtrodden have to be protected and taken care of," he said.
In a bid to allay the fears of upper castes over the misuse of Act, the CM added that it was his government's duty to see that the Act was not misused at any cost.
On the contrary, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav said that injustice should not be done to anyone. All should get a fair chance as per their talent and eligibility in jobs.
Tension gripped Agar where thousands of protestors took to streets to be countered by the supporters of SC/ST Act in the Pinhat township area.
Both the sides indulged in stone pelting on each other and verbal dual. Heavy contingent of police forces was rushed to the spot. Police had to lob teargas shells to shoo away the troublemakers and fire a few rounds in the air to disperse the crowd.
Many were taken into custody by the district police. In Agra, protestors laid seize on National Highway 2 bringing the traffic to a standstill.
In Khandauli, the protestors jammed Yamuna Expressway and pelted stones at the vehicle of SDM. Police had to resort to mild force for dispersing the protesting crowd.
Meanwhile, in other parts of the state including Varanasi, Kanpur, Gorakhpur, Ballia, Basti, Kushinagar, Mainpuri, Etawah, Meerut, Shamli, Badaun, Jaunpur, protestors hit the roads, shut down shutters of business establishments, blocked roads and stopped trains. However, no untoward incident was reported from any part of the state.