How is it that a group of men in India burn two innocent children alive and the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi doesn’t even utter a word of condemnation?
Both the question and answer are tragic examples of Modi's criminal silence on the violence gripping his nation.
The infant and his 2-year-old brother who were burned to death belonged to the Dalit community – the lowest of the low castes in the country. The attackers reportedly poured petrol on the entire family as they slept in the early hours of Oct. 20 in the state of Haryana. The parents of the children killed also sustained critical injuries.
The incident was allegedly a result of two feuding families. However, the fact that two children had to pay the ultimate price shocked the entire world as the distressing news made international headlines.
However, inter-caste violence isn’t uncommon in India. In fact, it happens so often that it's almost commonplace.
Previously known as the “untouchables,” the Dalits have long suffered abuses such as assault, rape and murder at the hands of so-called superior caste members.
Although caste-based discrimination under Indian law is illegal, the Draconian caste structure is still staunchly followed in several parts of India, especially where nationalist Hindus are in charge.
Modi’s political party is essentially a nationalist Hindu party so it's therefore not surprising that violence against Dalits has skyrocketed ever since he came into power last year.
Official stats reveal crimes against Dalits rose 19 percent in 2014.
“As many as 47,064 cases of crimes against Dalits were registered last year, up from 39,408 in 2013 and 33,655 in 2012,” according to National Crime Records Bureau data.
However, Thenmozi Soundararajan, a New York-based activist and artist, claims the numbers are far higher for 2014 than government records.
“During [Modi’s] first year [as prime minister]… violence against Dalit and minorities has risen 500 percent. And he has cut the budget for programs that service Dalits and women by over 50 percent,” Soundararajan told Salon.
Earlier this year, two sisters from a Dalit family were sentenced by an all-male village council to gang-rape as “punishment” for their brother’s “crime” of marrying a woman from a higher caste.
And on Oct. 8, a Dalit man and wife were reportedly stripped in public by the police in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh after they protested against authorities for not registering a complaint for an alleged robbery.
Just last week, a 15-year-old Dalit boy was charged with stealing a pigeon in Haryana who later died in police custody under mysterious circumstances.
Instead of condemning the incidents, V.K. Singh, a senior official of Modi’s BJP party compared the killings of the two Dalit children to throwing stones at dogs.
"There is no connection with the government. It is a feud between families," he said. “The government is not to blame if someone throws stones at a dog."
Read More: Narendra Modi’s Secular India Is A Farce
Fears of rising Hindu nationalism in India emerged when Modi was elected as the new prime minister in May 2014. And now, seeing how he has stayed silent over the recent wave of violence against Muslims and Dalits, it’s quite clear that those fears are materializing.