At least eight people were killed while several dozen injured in India on Monday after a low-caste Hindu group started a countrywide protest against a recent Supreme Court ruling.
In its ruling on the SC/ST Act (a 1989 law meant to protect them from caste discrimination), the apex court had said that the SC and ST Act had been misused in the past.
The community claims that law was weakened by the supreme body. The federal government has asked the court to review its decision.
Dalit leaders say that the ruling made them feel unsafe.
The general secretary of an all-India association for lower castes KP Choudhary said, “The SC/ST Act ensured the protection of Dalits in India by making any discrimination against our community a punishable offense. With this new Supreme Court order, these legal obligations have ended. We’re all sad and shocked.”
Last week a young Dalit farmer in Gujarat was beaten to death for owning a horse.
In many parts of the country, thousands of low-caste Dalit protesters took to the streets, blocked traffics including railways after calling for a nationwide protest.
They attacked vehicles, put them on fire and even threw stones at police. For safety, Shops and schools were closed in many parts of the country. Thousands chanted slogans in the capital, New Delhi.
Caste violence continues to be a problem for the country. An official stat suggests that more than 40 thousand cases were registered against lower caste in 2016 alone.
Clashes led to the death of six people alone in Madhya Pradesh, according to police. One person was killed in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. 30-35 persons were also injured in UP. Internet services were suspended in many places to stop the protest from spiraling.
In states like Punjab with less no of Dalits, the army was on standby. Clashes also took place in states like Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Dalits makes up some 200 million of India’s 1.2 billion people.