Attack on low-caste men sparks protests
10:53PM July 20, 2016
Protesters from India’s low-caste community have blocked roads and attacked government buses in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state in a third day of demonstrations over the flogging of four men accused of skinning a cow.
The four members of the Dalit community were last week tied to a car in Gujarat state, stripped and flogged with sticks by self-styled hardline Hindu cow protectors who then published a video of the attack as a “warning” to others.
The beatings sparked the most serious protests by Dalits in years in Gujarat, with seven youths trying to kill themselves in protest by taking pesticide in different parts of the state, an act that further inflamed tempers.
Cows are revered in Hinduism and their slaughter is banned in most Indian states including Gujarat, where Modi ruled as chief minister for a decade and spearheaded a 2011 ban.
Dalits in the state, however, say they earn their livelihood from skinning cows that die naturally, buffalos and other animals, and have vowed to fight anyone trying to stop them from doing so.
Dalits are at the bottom of India’s ages-old social hierarchy, making them vulnerable to attacks perpetrated by self-styled cow-protecting vigilantes.
Several people accused of eating beef have also been attacked, including a Muslim man who was last year beaten to death by a mob in a town near New Delhi.