Tweeting #DalitLivesMatter Won’t Solve Our Caste Problem. Karnataka Man Stripped, Beaten for “Touching Bike”

Social Commentary

Tweeting #DalitLivesMatter Won’t Solve Our Caste Problem. Karnataka Man Stripped, Beaten for “Touching Bike”

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

Scenes of mob violence have become distressingly commonplace in India over the last few years. The sight of an angry crowd gathered around a hapless victim as they rain down blows has been seen everywhere from remote rural hamlets to the court campuses in Delhi. On Saturday, the latest gruesome chapter in India’s history of mob violence unfolded in Karnataka. Video emerged of a group of men thrashing an individual. According to the First Information Report (FIR) filed by the victim’s family, the reason behind the mob’s attack was caste-related – the victim, a Dalit, was allegedly stripped and assaulted by the mob for touching the bike belonging to an upper-caste individual.

News reports identify the victim as a 28-year-old resident of Minaji village in Talikoti, Karnataka. In the police complaint, the victim’s father claims that the mob also beat him and the victim’s wife and daughter when they tried to intervene. If the claims in the FIR are true, they paint an ugly picture of archaic casteism and bigotry persisting well into the modern era. Police at Talikoti police station have filed the case under the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) Act, and are currently looking to apprehend the 12 members of the mob identified in the video.

Located about 530 kilometres from Karnataka’s state capital Bengaluru, Talikoti is a rural area. However, this weekend it became the site of yet another instance of mobs running amok against the rule of law. Local residents were quoted offering another side of the story in a report by New Indian Express, saying that the man that the mob thrashed was misbehaving with the women of the village, which was the inciting incident for the violence, and not a dispute over touching a bike.

Whether the reason the mob attacked was casteism or vigilantism, both are equally in contravention of the law. Indian society’s bout of mob violence has become so chronic, that even the coronavirus lockdown couldn’t prevent an incident like this one from taking place.