Several organizations belonging to Scheduled Castes (SC), made up of previously “untouchables” which is the lowest tier in India, and Scheduled Tribes (ST) made up of tribal groups which are the next tier, called for a nationwide shutdown against an amendment ordered by the Supreme Court on the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act last month.
The Supreme Court ruled that a government official cannot be prosecuted on a mere allegation of committing an offence under the Act without the sanction of the appointing authority. The ruling was met with protests, firing, stone pelting, road and train blocking as security forces were seen clashing with the protesters.
The SC and ST tribes resorted to vandalism during the protests and carried out forceful shutdowns, burnt down buses, imposed curfew, jammed internet facilities in cities and blocked trains on railway tracks. However, tear gas shells and baton charge was used heavily by policemen to tackle the crumbling law and order situation in sensitive areas.
According to the 2011 census, the SC and ST comprise about 16.6 percent and 8.6 percent respectively, of India’s population.