12-hour shutdown called by Dalit groups hits life in Kerala

A 12-hour hartal called by about 30 Dalit organisations hit life in Kerala on Monday with protests, road blockades and arrests reported from different parts of the state.

The shutdown left a greater impact on the southern districts where the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) operated minimal services and private buses remained off the roads.

In Thiruvananthapuram, supporters of the hartal - called to protest alleged dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act by the Supreme Court - tried to stop the movement of private vehicles in some areas.

KSRTC services that were on schedule in the morning were soon disrupted. Most of the shops and business establishments remained closed in the city.

KSRTC buses were attacked by hartal supporters in Kollam and Thrissur. The KSRTC had earlier sought police protection to operate its services.

In Chengannur, hartal supporters reportedly damaged a car. The Kerala and Calicut universities had postponed examinations scheduled on Monday. Reports said the protesters also forcefully closed shops in some parts.

In Kochi, police took Dalit Action Council convener and Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha leader M Geethanandan and about 20 others in preventive custody following attempts to disrupt vehicular traffic. The opposition Congress party said the CPM-led state government was using force to crush the Dalit protests. The hartal found support from activists of the Indian National Youth Congress.

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