A teenage boy from India’s lowest caste was burned to death by a high-caste farmer, police said Thursday.
The farmer allegedly believed the boy had allowed his goat to stray into one of the farmer’s fields.
Agence France-Presse reports police arrested the farmer they believe is responsible for the attack on the 15-year-old boy. The boy, Sai Ram, was a member of India’s Mahadalit caste — the lowest caste in the country’s deeply engrained class hierarchy.
Police said Ram was attacked Wednesday night at his rural home in the Rohtas district of Bihar state.
The Daily Mail reports the farmer, Kunkun Singh, is said to have barged into Ram’s home and poured kerosene on him before setting him on fire.
“Ram was first badly beaten by (the) accused and later set on fire. He was declared dead when brought to a local government hospital,” said Rohtas Police Superintendent Chandan Kushwaha.
Ram’s family went to the police requesting they investigate the matter. Kushwaha said an arrest was made shortly after the report was filed.
“Police have begun their investigation into the case and raids continued to arrest the accused, who had absconded after the incident,” he said.
The case from Bihar calls to mind another recent burning death in which Indian army personnel are believed to have sodomized and burned to death an 11-year-old madrasa student in Hyderabad on Oct. 8.
“After going through all the facts and statements of various people, it is evident that this is purely a case of sodomy by two military men with a boy of 11 years old,” a report from the fact finding team in that case indicated, according to India TV.
There is no indication, however, that the incident in Hyderabad was the result of conflicts stemming from the caste system.
It is estimated that 138 million Indians belong to the country’s lowest caste, sometimes referred to as the Dalits. The word means “the oppressed,” a term caste members prefer to the often-used “untouchables.”
In Bihar state, the Mahadalits are classified by state government as among the poorest of the Dalits.