AHMEDABAD: Hundreds of dead cattle have been left rotting in western India after members of the lowest Dalit social caste refused to dispose of them in protest at a vicious attack, a rights group said on Thursday.
The group, in Gujarat state, has called a mass rally to protest the treatment of low-caste workers, often tasked with unsavoury jobs including the disposal of dead cows.
Cows are considered sacred by Hindus and they are left to roam freely through the streets of India.
Around 10,000 people are expected to attend the rally on Sunday in Gujarat’s main city of Ahmedabad, said Kirit Rathod, a spokesman for Dalit Adhikar Manch.
“Since Dalits have stopped disposing of the cattle carcasses in nearly half a dozen districts, approximately 500 (dead) cattle are lying unattended across various towns and villages of Gujarat,” Rathod said.
Another representative of the group, Jignesh Mewani, told AFP that “at least 500 families of 19 villages and towns” across Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state had stopped work.
The strike comes after four Dalits were stripped half-naked, tied to a car and thrashed by cow protection vigilantes on July 11 over suspicions they had killed one of the animals.
Cow slaughter and the consumption of beef are banned in Gujarat and several other states in officially secular India.
Two more Dalits were beaten after they tried to save the four, while a police officer was killed days later when violence broke out at a rally in protest at the attack.
Police, who say the Dalits had been taking the cow to be skinned after it died naturally, have made 20 arrests over the attack.
Right-wing Hindu groups have long demanded a complete ban on the slaughter of all cattle, citing religious scriptures.
Attacks by vigilante groups on cow traders and smugglers have increased since Hindu nationalist Modi stormed to power at a general election in 2014.