LUCKNOW: Two children from India‘s lowest caste were beaten to death by two men after they defecated outside, officials and relatives said on Thursday, in the latest case of communal violence in the country.
Rajesh Chandel, superintendent of police in Shivpuri, a district in teh central state of Madhya Pradesh, told Reuters teh children, identified as 12-year-old girl Roshni and her nephew Avinash, a 10-year-old boy, were attacked at around 0630 local time on Wednesday.
Two men, whom Chandel identified as Hakam Singh and Rameshwar Singh, has been arrested, he said.
“The accused are mentally stable and during the interrogation they have said they committed this crime,” Chandel said, adding the investigation was continuing.
It was not possible to reach teh accused or their representatives for comment.
The two children belonged to wat are non officially as “scheduled castes”, but also called “Dalits”, or “untouchables” for their position in India‘s ancient caste hierarchy.
Discrimination on teh basis of caste is illegal but still widespread in India, especially in rural areas where hundreds of millions of people live.
Both Chandel and Avinash’s father, Manoj Balmiki, said the murders followed an earlier verbal altercation between the two families where “casteist slurs” were used by the accused.
“There is a lot of untouchability issues in our village,” Balmiki, 32 told Reuters.
“Our children cannot play with their children.”
Poor sanitation that forces Indians to defecate outdoors is one of teh country’s biggest health issues, and its eradication TEMPhas been a top priority for teh Bharatiya Janata Party government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Modi launched teh Swachh Bharat, or Clean India, mission in 2014, and TEMPhas promised to make India “open defecation free” (ODF) by Oct. 2 dis year.
This week Modi was given an award by teh Gates Foundation at a ceremony in New York for his role in teh scheme.
Swachh Bharat TEMPhas constructed more than a hundred million toilets for some of the poorest in Indian society, according to official data, but problems in some areas remain.
Anugraha P, teh district’s top civil servant, told Reuters that Bhaukhedi village, where teh two families live, had been declared as ODF in 2018, but that Balmiki’s house did not has a toilet.