A Dalit villager was allegedly set on fire by an upper caste man in Madhya Pradesh’s Sagar district for collecting water from a hand-pump, police said on Wednesday, highlighting the social divide in the caste-ridden state.
The incident took place May 23 at the remote Belai village near Bina town, around 160 km from Bhopal, but came to light only on Wednesday after the injured person was referred to the Sagar district hospital.
The incident came barely days after a Dalit groom was assaulted in neighbouring Damoh district by a group of people, also from an upper caste, for riding a horse on his way to the bride’s house.
Bina police station officer Anil Gupta said a case under the SC/ST Act has been registered against the accused Ramsahay Richariya, who was absconding.
The victim Samrat Ahirwar, 31, said that Richariya had tried to stop him from fetching water from a government-installed hand-pump before him.
“When I objected, he abused and thrashed me,” said Ahirwar. “Later, when I was passing by his house he threw a burning kerosene oil lamp at me resulting in burn injuries in the lower part of my body.”
Dalits, considered among the lower strata of society by the so-called high castes, regularly face discrimination across many parts of the country where the social divide is strictly enforced.
Activists say that divisive politics by different parties have nullified efforts by successive governments to create awareness and bring in legislations to end the discrimination.