India's Dalits demand freedom from caste discrimination

Massive protests in Gujarat state after cow vigilantes assault members of Dalit community for skinning a dead bovine.

| | Politics, Human Rights, Asia, India

Una, Gujarat - Thousands of people belonging to the Dalit community, the former untouchables, have staged a massive protest in India's Gujarat state in response to atrocities against the community.

The 10-day "Dalit Pride March" culminated in Una town in southern Gujarat on August 15 - India's Independence Day - as Dalits pledged to seek "freedom from atrocities and caste-based discrimination".

The latest development started as a reaction to an incident last month in Una when members of a Dalit family were publicly assaulted and humiliated by members of a Cow Protection Committee for skinning a dead cattle.

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A group of mostly young people and civil society members formed the Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti [Una Dalit committee to fight atrocities] demanding an end to the practice and the right to at least five acres of land, as most Dalits are landless.

Amid the chanting of Jai Bheem - a form of greeting popular among India's Dalits - people vowed not to dispose of dead cattle - a task that has been traditionally carried out by the lower caste people for centuries.

Members from the Muslim community - which has borne the brunt of the cow vigilantes - also joined Dalits in the 400km-long march that started in the state capital, Ahmedabad.


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