Ahmedabad: A young farmer from India´s lowest Dalit community has been beaten to death for owning a horse, which is seen as a symbol of power and wealth, police said Saturday. Police have detained three upper caste men for questioning after the body of 21-year-old Pradeep Rathod was found in a pool of blood near Timbi village in Gujarat state late Thursday night. Dalits, formerly known as “untouchables”, are among the most marginalised groups in India, where caste discrimination is outlawed but remains widespread.
Rathod´s father, who found the body, “has alleged that his son was killed by people of upper caste community of his village because he owned a horse despite being a Dalit,” deputy police superintendent A.M. Saiyed told AFP. “We have detained three persons named in the complaint filed by Pradeep Rathod´s father for questioning.” In his complaint, seen by AFP, Rathod´s father stated his son loved horses and he had bought him one eight months ago. “My son´s love for horses led to his murder,” the father said.
“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,” the complaint read. Rathod, a high school drop-out, worked on land owned by his father. Dalits, who lie at the bottom of India´s deeply entrenched social hierarchy system, have long faced attacks.
Last October, a Dalit man was killed by a group of men for attending a traditional Hindu dance performance also in Gujarat, the western home state of Hindu nationalist premier Narendra Modi. Protests erupted among the community in 2016 after vigilantes wrongly accused four Dalit villagers of killing a cow — considered sacred by Hindus. They were stripped and publicly thrashed.
Modi has urged a halt to attacks on Dalits, who make up about 200 million of the population of 1.25 billion, and an end to caste discrimination.