From hospital wards to skinning fields, India’s Dalit cattle skinners share stories of abuse and fears for their future.
Six people have been arrested in connection with an attack on a pregnant woman, who refused to clear away a cow carcass from the street as part of a weeks-long strike over alleged rights abuses, police said.
Sangita Ranawasia, who is five months’ pregnant and from India’s Dalit community, has been recovering in hospital after she and seven family members were beaten with sticks in their village in the western state of Gujarat two days ago.
“Six persons of the upper-caste Darbar community were arrested for assault on a pregnant woman and her family members,” deputy police superintendent BA Chavda told the AFP news agency on Monday.
“They face initial charges of assault and criminal intimidation,” Chavda added.
The attack late on Friday comes as Dalits continue their strike against collecting carcasses, a practice they have traditionally been doing for centuries, in protest against the public flogging of four Dalit villagers in July.
Dailts, formerly known as “untouchables,” are commonly tasked with removing dead cows from streets, as well as skinning cattle.
Anger has mounted among the Dalit community and violent protests have erupted over the flogging of the villagers by cow-protection vigilantes who accused them of killing a bovine they were removing.
Cows are considered sacred by Hindus and killing them is banned in most Indian states.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged a halt to attacks on Dalits, who lie at the bottom of India’s social hierarchy.
Cow carcasses can be seen on roadsides in Gujarat as Dalits strike and call for an end to deep discrimination and violence.
Police officer Chavda said the mob was angry at the Dalits’ refusal to remove the carcass due to the strike, and tensions have been running high in the village.
Ranawasia, whose unborn child was unharmed in the attack, and her family have since been given police protection.