CHANDIGARH: Activists from various Scheduled Castes (SC) organisations held protests in Punjab and Haryana against the dilution of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act following a Supreme Court order.
Hundreds of protesters carrying swords, sticks, baseball bats and flags forced shopkeepers and other establishments in Jalandhar, Amritsar and Bathinda to shut down.
According to reports, some protesters tried to stop a train in Amritsar district earlier on Monday morning but relented following talks with railway officials.
Demonstrators also entered the Jalandhar Cantt railway station, shouting slogans and burnt effigies on the tracks.
Some highways and roads were also blocked. Traffic in and around Chandigarh was severely affected.
Protests were also reported from Rohtak and other towns in neighbouring Haryana.
Shops, educational institutions and other establishments remained closed in Punjab. The final practical examinations of Class 10 and 12 of Punjab School Education Board, which were scheduled to be held on Monday, will now be held on April 11.
Various SC organisations will submit memorandums to district officers against the dilution of the Act.
The Punjab government on Sunday ordered a security clampdown across the state as a precautionary measure in view of Monday's protest.
The state has the highest concentration of scheduled castes among states. They constitute nearly 32 per cent of the state's 2.8 crore population.
Mobile internet services have been suspended from 5 p.m. on Sunday till Monday evening.
Noting that the Central government had already announced its decision to file a review petition against the Supreme Court verdict, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh appealed to the SC/ST community to defer its protest till the final decision on the petition comes.