The Korea Times

6 killed as caste protests turn violent across India


— Low-caste Dalits fought street battles with police on Monday that left at least six dead as protests against a Supreme Court rights ruling swept across large swathes of India.

Protesters clashed with security forces, attacked buses and government buildings, and blocked trains and major roads.

Four were reported dead in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, one in Uttar Pradesh and one in Rajasthan, police said.

Madhya Pradesh was one of the worst hit but Rishi Kumar Shukla, director general of the state police, told AFP the protests had been brought “under control.”

A curfew was imposed in parts of Gwalior due to the unrest, Anshuman Yadav, police inspector general for the city, told AFP.

There were media reports of more deaths in Morena district of Madhya Pradesh, but police could not immediatel­y confirm fatalities.

The death in Uttar Pradesh was in Muzaffarna­gar. “Some 30 police and about 30-35 protesters were also injured, one of them seriously,” said Praveen Kumar, the state police deputy inspector general.

Rahul Prakash, superinten­dent of police in Alwar in Rajasthan, said two or three people had been hit by bullets during clashes in the city. Police added that about 20 people had been injured.

Trouble was also reported in the capital New Delhi, and Punjab and Bihar states.

The “Bharat Bandh” — or India shutdown — protest was called by groups representi­ng the Dalits, once condemned as the “untouchabl­es,” who make up 200 million of India’s 1.25 billion population and are at the bottom of the caste hierarchy.

They are angry at a Supreme Court ruling that banned the automatic arrest of the accused in cases under a special law to protect marginalis­ed groups who suffer widespread discrimina­tion.

The 1989 Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was intended to guard against the harassment of Dalits and other groups.

Dalit leaders say the ruling increases the likelihood of attacks.

Dalits are among the most marginaliz­ed groups in a country where caste discrimina­tion is outlawed but remains widespread.

Last week a young Dalit farmer in Gujarat was beaten to death for owning a horse, which is seen as a symbol of power and wealth.

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