Police in India are searching for a teacher accused of beating a Dalit student to death over a spelling mistake, officers said amid violent protests triggered by the incident.
Nikhil Dohre was struck with a rod and kicked until he fell unconscious by his high school teacher earlier this month after misspelling the word “social” in an exam, according to a police complaint by his father.
The 15-year-old died from his injuries on Monday at a hospital in northern Uttar Pradesh state, and the accused has fled the area.
“He is on the run, but we will arrest him soon,” police officer Mahendra Pratap Singh told the AFP news agency.
The Dalit community – formerly known as the “untouchables” – sits at the lowest rung of India’s caste system and has been subject to prejudice and discrimination for centuries.
Reporting from New Delhi, Al Jazeera’s Pavni Mittal said violent protests broke out in Auraiya district, the location of the attack, demanding the teacher’s arrest before the cremation of the boy’s body.
“The family says the boy was beaten by his teacher a few weeks ago for making a spelling error. Now the family has called this a caste-based hate crime,” she said.
Hundreds of people took to the streets on Monday and torched a police vehicle. About a dozen protesters had been arrested, police officer Singh said.
“We used force to quell the mob and the situation soon came under control,” Superintendent of Police Charu Nigam told reporters.
Mittal said there is growing anger against casteism and caste-based violence in India, where untouchability is “banned but remains rampant”.
“According to government data, five-caste-based hate crimes take place every hour on average in the country,” she said.
Riya Singh, co-founder of the Dalit Women Fight organisation, told Al Jazeera the incident is “a reflection of the entrenched caste hatred that upper or dominant caste people have against Dalits”.
“The hatred is still so strong that it even extends to young children and ends up killing them,” she said.
Singh said the country should accept that there is caste bias and that people are using crime and violence to justify their caste bias. “It is only with this acknowledgement that we can move ahead.” she said.