A Dalit Christian woman was killed after suffering from beating while in detention at a police station in Yadadri-Bhongir district in India’s Telangana state.
The woman, known as Mariyamma, was arrested with her son after they were accused of theft in the village of Komatlagudem.
In many predominantly Hindu areas in India, Dalit Christians suffer from discrimination and are often the target of attacks.
Father Devasagayaraj Zackarias, former national secretary of the commission for disadvantaged castes of the Bishops’ Conference of India, said “deaths in detention are becoming frequent.”
The priest said the Dalits have become the “first victims.”
Mariyamma, a domestic worker at a house in the village of Addagudur, was allegedly beaten up by six “policemen in plain clothes” inside the police station.
The woman was earlier picked up from her home in the middle of the night and was beaten up by policemen in plainclothes, said Mariyamma’s daughter Swapna.
Father Zackarias said the Dalit woman’s death was “a horrible and disgusting fact” in many places in the country.
“It’s nothing more than a police murder,” the priest said in an interview with AsiaNews.
“Vulnerable people face discrimination from society and even those who, like law enforcement, should be neutral are on the side of the oppressors,” said Father Zackarias.
Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, condemned the incident, saying that .
“Now the Dalits are not only affected in their rights and dignity, but also in their own life,” he told AsiaNews.
He said caste-based violence “reached new levels in some southern Indian states” during the pandemic.
“There has been a rapid escalation of crimes against Dalit communities that has added to dehumanization,” said George.
The term Dalit refers to the “untouchables” under India’s ancient caste system. They are considered unclean because they do menial work like manual scavenging and are traditionally ostracized.
The Indian Constitution had officially abolished caste distinctions in 1949 but the enduring legacy of caste discrimination continues to this day.