Thousands protest against attack on low-caste Dalits
THOUSANDS of low-caste Dalits formerly known as “untouchables” protested in western India against an attack on their members by cow protection vigilantes.
Police surrounded the protesters here, the main city in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat, to prevent any violence, as anger among Dalits mounts over the attack.
Protest organiser Jignesh Mevani said Dalit youths were trying to kill themselves to protest against the attacks committed against their caste, which lies at the bottom of India’s complex and entrenched social hierarchy system.
“Neither the BJP nor Congress will come to our help,” Mr Mevani said on July 31 of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and main opposition party.
“Only our united strength will help us fight the age-old oppression,” the Dalit activist told the crowd which police put at 5,000-strong.
Violent protests erupted this month after video footage emerged of an attack on four Dalit villagers who were taking a dead cow to be skinned.
Cows are considered sacred by Hindus and killing them is banned in Gujarat, but the villagers said the animal had died of natural causes.
Dalits are commonly tasked with removing the corpses of dead cows from the streets of India, where the animals often roam freely.
Dalit leaders told the rally a 24-year-old man who drank poison to protest against the attack died of his injuries in hospital on July 30.
Dalits at the rally on July 31 to protest against attacks on their community in Una, Ahmedabad, western India.