Shutdown in Kerala to protest dilution of SC/ST act

The 12-hour shutdown called by various Dalit outfits on Monday in Kerala to protest the alleged dilution of a law that safeguards the marginalised communities and violence against them in north India evoked a mixed response in the state.

Except for stray incidents of stone-pelting the shutdown has been peaceful so far. This is the second shutdown in a week after the 24-hourcalled by Left trade unions on April 2 crippled the state.

The state-owned Road Transport Corporation, private bus operators and traders body earlier announced that they would function normally.

But in many places, the protesters tried to block government and private vehicles and in some places, the state-owned buses ran its fleet with police protection. A state-owned bus was stoned in Kollam.

The leader of Monday’s protest Geetanandan and his supporters were taken into custody in Kochi.

“The report that we have got from across the state is that by and large, the protest appears to have become a success … There is no reason for taking us into custody,” Geetanandan was quoted as saying by the news agency IANS.

Teachers, who were to reach the camps for the evaluation of the Class 10 examinations paper in Kollam district, were held up after traffic was halted.

“Don’t think we can reach the camp on time. We decided to come after the state government had assured us that traffic would not be stopped and the police had taken all steps to prevent it. But now we are stranded,” a group of female teachers were quoted as saying by IANS.

The three major IT parks in the state, two in Kochi and the other in Thiruvananthapuram, functioned normally. In the state capital, IT professionals were able to reach the Technopark campus in convoys.

The university examinations for the day were rescheduled.

Bureaucrats in the tourism department and traders have decried recurring shutdowns in the state, saying they are affecting business and draining their coffers.

Dalit groups are protesting the Supreme Court’s March 20 ruling on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

They allege the judgement whittled down safeguards guaranteed by legislation meant to protect the marginalised communities from abuse and discrimination.

The top court on April 3 declined to stay its ruling as it asserted that it wanted to protect innocent people from being punished.

(With agency inputs)