BHOPAL: The Bharat Bandh called by the upper caste and other backward castes (OBC) outfits to protest last month's amendment to the SC/ST Atrocities Act evoked overwhelming response across Madhya Pradesh on Thursday.
Commercial establishment, petrol pumps, and schools remained closed all across the assembly poll-bound state. With the commercial establishments largely downing their shutters voluntarily in response to the Bandh call, the development is bound to be a cause of concern both to the ruling BJP and the Congress.
Shops and commercial establishments, particularly big markets remained shut all across MP, including the four major cities, Indore, Bhopal, Jabalpur and Gwalior and all other districts, including Mandsaur, Neemuch, Barwani, Khargone, Ratlam, Vidisha, Narsinghpur, Jabalpur, Satna, Sagar, Chhatarpur, Tikmagarh, Damoh, Sidhi, Rewa, Morena, Bhind, Sheopur and Sidhi.In Bhopal's Bittan Market, the flower shop owned by CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan's son Kartikey Singh Chouhan also remained shut down.
In Mandsaur and Neemuch districts of West MP, even medical store owners didn't open their shops till afternoon in support of the Bandh. In various districts, protestors wearing T-Shirts bearing the upper caste-OBC movement's punch-line 'Mai ke Laal' carried out protest rallies.The Bandh largely remained peaceful, except for some incidents in Shahdol, Ashok Nagar, Guna, Morena, Satna, Sidhi, Rewa, Alirajpur and Bhind.
According to IG (Intelligence) of MP Police Makrand Deouskar, the Bandh largely remained peaceful, barring a few incidents of disturbance in some districts. Not giving the actual figures on number of people arrested in the state during the Bandh, Deouskar confirmed that Pushpendra Singh, the son of BJP MLA from Bhind seat Narendra Singh Kushwah was taken into custody for violating prohibitory orders, but later released on production of surety bond in Bhind district.
Protestors attempted to stop trains near Shadora railway station in Ashok Nagar district and also in Rewa district, where protestors also reportedly pelted stones on a train. Protestors also attempted to storm into the Rewa district police control room and damage property there, but police acted in time.
Burning of tyres on roads was reported from Rewa and Satna districts, while the police had to fire tear gas shells in Aron town in Guna district, which forms part of Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia's Lok Sabha constituency. Protestors pelting stones on police vehicle in Bhind district and police using force to disperse mob in Shahdol district was also reported.
The patron of SAPAKS (main outfit backing the Bandh) retired IAS officer Dr Hiralal Trivedi alleged that a protestor and social activist Shekhar Mishra was assaulted in a targeted manner by three cops, including district police superintendent Kumar Sourabh in Shahdol district, resulting in grievous injuries to Mishra. The incident happened when the protestors were peacefully handing over the memorandum of demands to the district collector Anubha Srivastava.
While the Shahdol district collector Anubha Srivastava maintained that she had not ordered use of force by police in the matter, the senior officials at the state police headquarters in Bhopal remained tight-lipped in the matter."We're going to take up the matter with the state's home minister and demand immediate removal of Kumar Sourabh from the SP Shahdol post followed by a through probe into the matter. We also demand his suspension," said SAPAKS patrol Dr Trivedi.
Also, there were reports of activists related to tribal organization JAIS demonstrating at the Nagar Palika in tribal-dominated Alirajpur district, to protest the removal of their banner bearing a call against the Bharat Bandh.