Earlier this month, four young men were stripped and flogged for taking a cow across the road. The four men were Dalits, previously known as untouchables, and the lowest-rung in the Indian caste-system.
It is thought the attackers accused the boys of killing the cow- cows being revered in Hindu culture- but villagers maintained the animal had died naturally.
Last week, a Dalit man was beheaded and his wife stabbed to death in Uttar Pradesh. According to police, the couple were murdered by a grocer, known as Mishra, due to a 16p biscuit debt..
A local villager told the Indian Express “while Mishra kept shouting for the money, the couple started walking towards the fields. Mishra then ran to his house nearby and returned with an axe. He hacked Bharat repeatedly and then attacked Mamta who was trying to rescue her husband. The couple died on the spot.”
Back in March, a Dalit man was killed in the middle of the road in broad daylight for marrying a woman of a higher-caste. The killer, the woman’s father, turned himself in afterwards.
These types of attacks are all too common in the heavily hierarchical Indian culture. Dalits work largely as sewer workers, contributing to their lowly status. Almost 30,000 workers collect garbage, clean gutters, sweep streets and work in dumping grounds.
Anger has been rising due to the repeated attacks and lack of job diversity. Yesterday, 25,000 members rallied in protest of such attacks in Gujarat. Jignesh Mevani, the organiser of the protest, even encouraged Dalits to acquire firearms in order to protect themselves.
He said “neither the BJP nor Congress will come to our help…only our united strength will help us fight the age-old oppression.”
Dalits were also urged to boycott work. Mevani said “to give a strong message to the government, I urge all Dalits to discontinue the work of disposing dead animals…(and) cleaning sewer lines.
“We no longer wish to do this work and want the government to allot agriculture land to us, so that we can live a respectable life…If atrocities on Dalits do not stop, we will show our strength in the 2017 assembly polls.”
More protests are to take place between August 5th and 15th.