Bharat Bandh on August 9: Dalit Groups Call All-India Shutdown Defying Govt's Appeal
In the Bharat Bandh called by Dalit groups on April 2, 12 protesters had lost their lives | File Image | (Photo Credits: PTI)

New Delhi, Aug 8: Nearly a dozen Dalit groups under the aegis of All India Ambedkar Mahasabha (AIAM) have called for a Bharat Bandh on Thursday, August 9. Despite the government's appeal, the protesters have not retracted the all-India shutdown call.

The bandh call was issued by Dalit outfits in the past month, after the Centre had failed to issue an ordinance to reverse the changes made to the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 though a Supreme Court ruling on March 20.

In a bid to quell the unrest, the government on Monday passed an amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha which annuls the changes made to the SC/ST Act by the apex court.

Following the passage of the amendment law, Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, Ramdas Athawale, said there is no reason to proceed with the agitation.

"The government of Narendra Modi is working steadfastly towards the upliftment and empowerment of Dalits. We all had opposed the SJ verdict on SC/ST Act, and responding to our concerns, the Centre has moved an amendment," Athawale said, appealing the AIAM to call off the bandh.

The protesters, however, have refrained from rescinding the shutdown call, citing the alleged increase in atrocities against the Dalit populace under the NDA regime.

The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), an ally of the BJP which had earlier threatened to support the agitation, said there is no reason to proceed with the bandh as an amendment Bill has already been cleared by the Lok Sabha, which reverses all the changes made to the SC/ST Act by the apex court.

"We expect the Rajya Sabha to also pass the Bill at the earliest. Anyone opposing it will be vanquished," said LJP chief and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan.

The changes made to the SC/ST Act through the March 20 Supreme Court ruling made a preliminary inquiry mandatory before the registration of an FIR. The court ruling also allowed the accused to seek anticipatory bail.

The amendments, Dalit activists said, would "dilute" the law and render it "toothless". The protesters had also marked dissent against the Centre for Justice (retd) AK Goel - who headed the bench which amended the SC/ST Act - as the chief of the National Green Tribunal.