At least eight people reportedly died in three Indian states on Monday as protests by the Dalit community turned violent.
The Dalit community is considered the lowest caste in India. Often, heinous crimes are committed against the community with almost always no consequences against the perpetrators, because the caste disparity even plagues the justice system.
The Dalit caste took to the streets after the Supreme Court ruled the police couldn’t immediately arrest someone after the filing of official charges under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Ironically, the Dalit community believes the delay in arrest will increase the already tumultuous amount of hate crimes against lower-caste people.
The protests began peacefully but quickly turned violent with the local media reporting clashes between the police and protestors in Madhya Pradesh and at least seven other states.
Curfew was imposed in Madhya Pradesh immediately after the first death, according to police Supt. Ashish Singh from the Morena district.
The Dalit community effectively halted public transportation, shut down banks and educational institutes and postponed high school examinations in Punjab, where the lower-caste Indians are found most in numbers.
Other smaller and peaceful protests were held in Delhi to oppose the Supreme Court ruling and raise voice against the prevalent caste system in India.
Indian caste system has long been outlawed, yet, it remains dominant in cultural practices all over the country. Upper-caste Indians consider the Dalit community impure, often forbidding them to share food and even entering temples. These cases of discrimination, exclusion and even violence have sidelined lower-caste Hindus for years.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accused the opposition parties in India of politicizing the issue and claimed the government does not agree with the Supreme Court’s ruling. He also said the government has filed a petition review asking the ruling to be revised.
The court’s judgment allows a preliminary hearing before charges are officially filed against hate crimes reported by the lower-caste Hindus. The court argued this ruling will help identify false accusations made in the name of hate crimes.
The members of the Dalit community see this ruling as an additional obstacle in filing formal charges against the violent crimes and harassment they claim to face on a daily basis. The latest Indian national data echoes the community’s concern with more than 47,000 police registered cases of crimes against people of lower castes in 2016 alone.
The prevalent hate crimes in India reflect on the deep-seeded communal disputes in the country and the obstacles in halting these crimes despite them being outlawed for years.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: REUTERS/Ajay Verma