Bhopal/Jaipur/Lucknow: A nationwide anti-quota shutdown call, made largely through social media, turned out to be a damp squib on Tuesday with virtually no impact on the ground amid heavy security arrangements.
Shops remained closed in some parts of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan for a few hours and internet services were restricted in sensitive areas to check “rumour-mongering”, but normal life remained largely unaffected, officials said.
Reports from Bihar showed attempts to block trains.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was in Bihar on Tuesday for centenary celebrations of the ‘Champaran Satyagraha’, slammed the opposition for putting hurdles “from the Parliament to the streets” in the government’s development work, in an apparent reference to the April 2 violent protests, for which the BJP has blamed opposition parties.
The bandh call was made as a counter to the nationwide protest by various Dalit groups last week, which had turned violent in several states with at least 11 persons losing their lives, including eight in Madhya Pradesh.
While schools remained open in Bhopal, some of them suspended their bus services. Officials in Madhya Pradesh said that the bandh call was given on social media and no organisation had come forward so far to claim responsibility for it.
In Rajasthan, which was also hit badly during the Dalit-convened bandh, the state government had issued prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC ) and blocked mobile internet services in the state capital as a precautionary measure.
The police chiefs and collectors of districts across the state were asked to take prompt action if any nuisance is created, officials in Jaipur said.
On Monday, the Union Home Ministry had issued an advisory to all states to beef up security and prevent violence during the Bharat Bandh against caste-based reservations in jobs and education.
The Ministry of Home Affairs also said that districts magistrates and superintendents of police (SPs) would be personally held responsible for any violence in their area of jurisdiction.
The directive came a week after a similar protest saw massive violence in different parts of the country leading to the death of at least 11 persons.
“The situation in the state (Rajasthan) is peaceful,” ADG (Law and Order) NRK Reddy told PTI in Jaipur.
He said that companies of paramilitary forces including BSF and CRPF were deployed at sensitive areas of different districts in the state. However, no demonstration or rally took place and transport vehicles plied normally, though some private schools were closed.
Daytime curfew was imposed in Morena and Bhind, from where casualties were reported during the Dalit bandh. Besides, prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC were in place in Gwalior, Bhopal, Sagar and some other sensitive towns of the state to avoid any untoward incidents.
“There has been no impact of the alleged bandh so far. The state police is also keeping a watch on the social media,” Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Bhupendra Singh told reporters.
The internet services too have been blocked in the Gwalior-Chambal region to prevent rumour-mongering, officials said.
They warned that those spreading hate messages would be booked for disobedience to order promulgated by public servant.
In Uttar Pradesh, life by and large remained normal and officials said there was no report of any untoward incident from anywhere in the state till around noon.
The protest came a week after a nationwide protest by Dalit groups against “dilution” of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act by the Supreme Court.
In Gujarat, the bandh evoked tepid response with most establishments and markets staying open in major cities and towns, an official said.
Though messages in support of the bandh call did the rounds on social media platforms over the last few days, the response to the stir was lukewarm, officials said.
Barring Idar and Khedbrahma towns in north Gujarat, where markets remained shut during the day in support of the bandh, the state remained unaffected, they said.
Khedbrahma MLA Ashwin Kotwal claimed shopkeepers joined the bandh out of fear.
“I was told shopkeepers decided to join the bandh in panic, as some people circulated messages warning them of consequences if the locals did not support the protest,” the Congress legislator claimed.
According to the state police control room, there was no report of any trouble or violent protest anywhere in the state during the day.
There was mixed response in Punjab and Haryana with shops and commercial establishments remaining shut in some parts and protesters taking out marches in some areas.
Tight security arrangements were made by the Punjab police to avert any untoward incident.