A man from India’s lowest caste has been killed by a group of higher-caste men for attending a traditional Hindu dance performance, police said Monday.
Jayesh Solanki, 21, and his cousin Prakash were allegedly attacked late Sunday when they went to watch garba -- a folk dance performed during the nine-day Hindu festival of Navratri.
The alleged attack in the western state of Gujarat is the latest incident of violence against Dalits, who lie at the bottom of India's deeply entrenched social hierarchy system.
“We have arrested eight persons for allegedly beating to death one Jayesh Solanki in Borsad town of the district,” local police superintendent Anand Saurabh Singh told AFP.
Police said they had received a complaint from the victim's cousin Prakash, who said one of the men demanded to know why they were watching the dance performance.
The accused “hurled caste-based abuses” before going away and returning with seven others who began beating the pair, police quoted Prakash as saying. The group first slapped Prakash and when Jayesh tried to stop the fight, he was shoved aside.
“They pushed him so hard that he banged his head on a wall and collapsed,” the complaint added. Jayesh was rushed to hospital where he was declared dead, police said. The attackers said Dalits “do not have any right to watch garba”, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
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Dalits, formerly known as “untouchables”, are among the most marginalized groups in India, where caste discrimination is outlawed but remains widespread. Last week two Dalits were allegedly beaten up by upper-caste Hindus in Gujarat for sporting moustaches.
Anger and protests erupted among the community last year after vigilantes wrongly accused four Dalit villagers of killing a cow -- considered sacred by Hindus -- and stripped and publicly thrashed them.
Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has since urged a halt to attacks on Dalits and an end to all caste discrimination.