Indian caste protests cripple life in Mumbai

250 views

MUMBAI — Demonstrators from India’s lowest caste blocked roads and railways across Mumbai on Wednesday in protest against violence involving Hindu nationalist groups at an event commemorating a 200-year-old battle.

Members of the Dalit community obstructed roads, damaged buses and marched down railway tracks, delaying train services which are the lifeline of India’s bustling financial capital.

Some schools and business opted to close as a precaution while the city’s famous lunchbox delivery men, called “Dabbawalas”, also cancelled their services.

The protests came in response to violence which broke out at a ceremony in a village near Pune in Maharashtra state on Monday, leaving one man dead.

Dalits had gathered to celebrate the anniversary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle in 1818, in which they helped British colonial forces defeat the high-caste Peshwas.

Dailt leaders accused right-wing Hindus of inciting Monday’s clashes, which spread to other areas of Maharashtra of which Mumbai is the capital.

“The government didn’t arrest the perpetrators of violence in Pune. Hindu group members were beating Dalits and the police were just watching from afar,” said protester Sandeep Kamble. “We are demanding the arrest of the culprits.”

Thousands of Dalits hurled stones and caused traffic disruption across Mumbai on Tuesday. Dalits have been ostracized by upper-caste Hindus for centuries for doing jobs they deemed as impure, such as working in tanneries and as picking garbage.

The state government has ordered a judicial inquiry into the clashes.

Mumbai police said more than 100 demonstrators had been arrested and nine cases of unlawful activity had been registered.

On Wednesday politicians called for a peaceful end to the violence.

“There is an attempt to create a social divide which we have to foil unitedly,” said Neelam Gorhe, a leader of the right-wing Hindu party Shiv Sena. — Agencies


250 views