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Four Dead as Supreme Court Order Triggers Caste Riots in India

Indian dalit women protest near Haryanan's Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hudda residence against the gang-rape of four Dalit girls in New Delhi, India, Sunday, May 11, 2014. They have been on protest at Jantar Mantar since April 16, they claim that government hasn't worked to end the continuous violence and …
AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal

Violence and unrest erupted throughout northern and central India on Monday as thousands of Dalits, members of Hinduism’s lowest caste, protested against an order by India’s Supreme Court that weakens legal safeguards put in place for their community in 1989.

The decision weakened security protections in the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989.

At least four people have been declared dead in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, according to Al Arabiya.

India’s Constitution, which came into effect on January 26, 1950, outlaws the practice of discriminating based on caste and makes it a crime punishable by up to one year in prison. Despite this, caste prejudice persists in Hindu-majority India.

According to the Associated Press, “Dalit groups say the law is already poorly enforced with abysmally low conviction rates and the top court’s order dilutes it further.” The AP added, “Over the years, stringent laws were put into place to deter the practice. But caste-based discrimination continues even though it’s less visible in modern India.”

There are over 200 million Dalits in India. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) states that the rate of crimes against Dalits has risen over the past few years.

On Thursday, a young Dalit farmer was beaten to death in the state of Gujarat by several upper-caste men for owning and riding a horse, seen as a symbol of power and wealth.

Pradeep Rathod was 21. The horse he rose was reportedly also found dead nearby.

“My son’s love for horses led to his murder,” Rathod’s father said, according to the BBC. “About a week ago, when I was riding the horse with my son, one of the persons from the upper caste Kshatriya [warrior] community warned us not to ride the horse in the village. He said that people of Dalit community cannot ride horses, only Kshatriyas can ride horses. He also threatened to kill us if we did not sell the horse.”

India’s left-wing Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi pointed a finger at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeting, “To keep Dalits at the lowest notch in Indian society RSS/ Modihangout is in DNA. Those who challenge this thinking are hit by violence. Thousands of Dalit brother-sister Deplane on the streets today are demanding to protect their rights from the Modi government. We salute them.”

Adelle Nazarian is a politics and national security reporter for Breitbart News. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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