Indian police have detained over 300 people in connection with violent protests that broke out across Maharashtra state earlier this week following the killing of a low-caste youth during a clash between the marginalized Dalit community and Hindu nationalists, an official said Thursday.
The Dalits, who form the lowest rung of Hinduism’s rigid caste hierarchy, brought state capital Mumbai to a grinding halt on Wednesday as tens of thousands poured into the streets of India’s financial hub to demand action against Hindu fundamentalists, who allegedly attacked their community members on Jan. 1 because of ideological differences over a 200-year-old war.
One Dalit youth was killed in Monday’s violence in the state’s second city of Pune, as Dalits celebrated the bicentenary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle, in which their ancestors helped the British East India Company defeat the ruling-class Peshwas in 1818.
“We have detained more than 300 people and are questioning them about their role in the violence,” a senior police official told BenarNews while requesting anonymity, adding that as of Thursday evening the police had made about 40 arrests.
About 35 policemen sustained injuries when protesters began hurling stones and torching vehicles during Wednesday’s protest, which garnered widespread media attention. Police nevertheless kept a lid on the chaos, Maharashtra’s Director General of Police Satish Mathur told reporters.
“We had made elaborate arrangements throughout the state, with special focus on sensitive areas where intelligence inputs suggested that a major flare-up was possible. In hindsight, the statewide protests went off largely peacefully,” he said.
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