Normal life was crippled across Punjab and Haryana on Monday as activists from various Scheduled Castes (SC) organisations held protests against the dilution of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act following a Supreme Court order.The police cane-charged and used force at a few places to disperse the crowds and ensure the day passes off peacefully.Hundreds of protesters carrying swords, sticks, baseball bats and flags forced shops and other establishments in Jalandhar, Amritsar and Bathinda to shut down. The Punjab Police cane-charged protesters in Bathinda.However, no major incident of violence was reported from either of the states.According to reports, some protesters stopped trains at a couple of places in Punjab but relented after talks with railway officials.Demonstrators also entered the Jalandhar Cantt railway station, shouting slogans and burnt effigies on the tracks.Protests were reported from Ferozepur, Mansa, Ludhiana and Hoshiarpur in Punjab. The demonstrators blocked highways and roads in both the states, leading the police to use force to disperse them.
However, this led to inconvenience to commuters.Traffic in and around Chandigarh was also affected.Rohtak, Sirsa, Kaithal, Ambala, Yamunanagar and Gurugram towns in neighbouring Haryana also saw demonstrations while shops, educational institutions and other establishments remained closed in Punjab.The final practical examinations of Class 10 and 12 of the Punjab School Education Board, scheduled to be held on Monday, will now be held on April 11.Various SC organisations submitted 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.Mobile internet services have been suspended from 5 p.m. on Sunday till Monday evening.The state has the highest concentration of Scheduled Castes among the states in the country. They constitute nearly 32 per cent of the state's 2.8 crore population.