Dalit protests hit normal life in Bihar

Patna, April 2 (IANS) Normal life in Bihar was hit on Monday during protests against the dilution of the SC and ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, disrupting rail and road traffic and forcing shutdown of markets and educational institutions, police said.

Thousands of Dalit activists with active support of the RJD and Left parties staged protests across the state.

Supporters of the Bhim Army and other Dalit groups halted over three dozen long-distance and local passenger trains, stranding passengers at Patna, Muzafffarpur, Gaya, Jehanabad, Begusarai, Madhepura, Bhagalpur, Ara, Darbhanga, Araria, Nalanda, Samastipur, Nawada and Hajipur stations.

"Train services have been badly disrupted due to the protests," an East Central Railway official told IANS over telephone from Hajipur, the zonal headquarters.

At some places, the demonstrators also blocked national and state highways.

In Patna, hundreds of Bhim Army workers took to the streets to protest and enforce a shutdown. They blocked Gandhi Setu, which connects Patna with north Bihar.

"In several localities in Patna, the Bhim Army forced shops to close and blocked roads by burning tyres," a police official said.

There were reports of sporadic violence in Vaishali, Muzaffarpur, Nawada, Patna and Bhagalpur as protesters clashed with police.

Some reports reaching here said that security forces were mere spectators as the protesters targeted public and private property.

Of Bihar's total 10.5 crore population, Dalits account for 15.5 lakh.

RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav and former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi of HAM joined the protesters at Dak Bungalow junction in the heart of Patna.

"Our party is totally against the dilution of SC/ST Act," Tejashwi Yadav said.



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