Bijay Kumar Minj, New Delhi
Updated: September 29, 2020 10:04 AM GMT
Dalit Christians and activists from across India demand the same rights enjoyed by their Hindu counterparts in a protest in New Delhi on Aug. 10, 2019. (Photo: UCA News)
Police in the western India state of Gujarat have arrested six people in connection with the killing of a Dalit activist and lawyer over anti-Brahmin posts on social media.
Devji Maheshwari, of the All India Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF) and a practicing lawyer from Gujarat's Kutch district, was murdered on Sept. 25.
“So-called upper-caste people have realized that there is an uprising of Dalits in the recent past which they take as a threat to themselves, hence for the last 5-6 years we have seen atrocities against Dalits increase,” Father Vijay Kumar Nayak, secretary of the Indian Catholic bishops’ Office for Dalits and Lower Classes, told UCA News.
“Dalits and minorities are always at the receiving end at the hands of people of high society, elite groups, administration and government, so police brutality against them is nothing new.
“Dalit activists, academics, journalists and many more human rights activists are in the radar of the upper caste. Anyone speaking up for the Dalits and the downtrodden is attacked or branded anti-national.”
Father Nayak added that of late Dalits had been subject to more atrocities — so much so that even the president has taken note of it.
Maheshwari's last Facebook post cited a BAMCEF official saying that scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward class members are not Hindus.
His alleged killer, Bharat Raval, had clashed with Maheshwari on his views on Brahmanism. Maheshwari wrote and shared posts critical of Brahmanism on social media.
“Raval disagreed with those views and warned Maheshwari on several occasions to refrain from writing such posts publicly," said a police official.
The official said that Maheshwari and Raval had clashed repeatedly over the past month. Raval, who is a Brahmin, had asked Maheshwari not to create trouble since both of them are from the same village.
“He also once threatened him at his office but Maheshwari told him that he would not back down and challenged him to do what he liked," said the official.
On the evening of Sept. 25, Raval was seen standing outside Maheshwari's office in CCTV footage. The footage shows Maheshwari entering his office and Raval following him.
The recent tonsuring case of Vara Prasad in East Godavari became national news, with the president taking note of it. Prasad’s head and moustache were shaved on July 22 by the police even though he claimed innocence.
In another case, Dalit youth Yericharla Kiran died in police custody in Prakasam district after he was detained for not wearing a face mask on July 18.
Similar atrocities were also reported from neighboring Tamil Nadu state when a 63-year-old father and his 31-year-old son from Sathankulam were allegedly killed in police custody on June 23.
Dalits, or untouchables, are the lowest caste within Hindu society. Huge numbers have converted to Christianity and Islam over the decades, though in reality the religions offer limited protection from societal prejudice.
The word Dalit means "trampled upon" in Sanskrit and refers to all groups once considered untouchable and outside the four-tier Hindu caste system. Government data shows 201 million of India’s 1.2 billion people belong to this socially deprived community. Some 60 percent of India's 25 million Christians are of Dalit or tribal origin.