Hundreds of Indian security forces enforced a curfew on a tense district Wednesday after a mob set fire to the homes of two political figures from the country’s low-caste Dalit community.
Amid heightened communal tensions over caste rights, some 5,000 people angered by earlier Dalit protests torched the houses Tuesday of a state legislator and former lawmaker in the Karauli district of the popular tourist state of Rajasthan.
Neither was at home at the time, the district’s top administrative official told AFP. “We have made some arrests following the arson and violence. A curfew is in place and we have also deployed 600-700 extra security personnel,” said Abhimanyu Kumar.
The incident followed violent nationwide protests by tens of thousands of Dalits on Monday which left at least nine dead.
#Dalit protest: #Vadgam MLA @jigneshmevani80 at Sarangpur circle in #Ahmedabad; traffic deadlock brings vehicular movement to a grinding halt at #Sarangpur Circle. #Gujarat #SupremeCourt #SCSTAct pic.twitter.com/IqWRzYfO2O— TOI Ahmedabad (@TOIAhmedabad) April 2, 2018
Once dismissed as “untouchables”, Dalits make up 200 million of India’s 1.25 billion population and are at the bottom of the caste hierarchy. They have been enraged at a Supreme Court ruling that they say weakens a law intended to protect lower caste communities.
The Court last month banned the automatic arrest of people accused of attacking or harassing Dalits and other marginalized groups. While the court says its intention was to prevent fake cases, Dalit leaders say the community is now more vulnerable to attack.
Discrimination has become a political issue in the run-up to a national election that must be held before May 2019. The BJP government has however filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to overturn its ruling.