The body of a Dalit (formerly referred to as “untouchables”) woman was taken off a funeral pyre in India by a group of men belonging to more privileged castes who said she could not be cremated on communal land, police said on Tuesday, a case that prompted angry calls for an end to caste discrimination.
The funeral was being held in northern Uttar Pradesh state’s Agra district last week when about 200 men stopped the cremation, saying the site was not meant for villagers from less privileged castes, police and the woman’s husband said.
“My family and I… begged them to let us perform the last rites but no one listened to us. The police were also called, but nothing was done,” said Rahul Bajaniya, the woman’s husband.
“We had to take the body to a different cremation ground, which is about four kilometres [2.5 miles] away, and perform the last rites there,” he said, which lies close to the iconic Taj Mahal.
Bajaniya said caste discrimination in the village was so entrenched that people from the more privileged castes “even object to us when we fetch water from the [community] hand-pump”.
An online video showing men removing firewood from the pyre as a body lay on the ground had been viewed nearly 200,000 times.