Saturday, January 03, 2004

5 Killed in Apparent India Caste Dispute

PATNA, India (AP) - Unidentified gunmen stormed a village and shot to death five so-called "untouchables'' Saturday, in what police said was apparently to settle a score in the interminable caste wars of eastern India.

Several residents of Bariari - a village exclusively of low-caste people - were also wounded in the predawn attack, police Inspector-General A.C. Verma told The Associated Press. Bariari is about 30 miles east of Patna, the capital of Bihar state.

Verma blamed the attack on Ranvir Sena, a private militia of upper-caste landlords in Bihar. No other details were immediately available.

In many regions of India, members of higher castes continue to discriminate against untouchables, also called Dalits. Violence breaks out when the untouchables attempt to claim their rights to vote, land ownership, send their children to school, seek political office, or refuse to do traditional tasks without being paid.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in the past decade over caste-related disputes in Bihar, one of India's poorest and most lawless states.

Political analysts say the fight between the castes is about scarce resources in a poor state where there is little development and rampant government corruption.

Source: The Guardian, January 3, 2004

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