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India Dalit Leader Calls Off Mumbai Strike

VOA - Thursday 4th January, 2018

A low-caste Dalit leader has called off a planned strike in India's financial capital after two days of clashes and traffic disruptions by Dalit protesters.

Protests erupted throughout the state of Maharashtra after a man was killed Monday in clashes surrounding a celebration of the 200-year anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, when low-caste Dalits fought alongside the British to defeat a high-caste ruler.

Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the author of India's constitution which prohibits caste-based discrimination, called off the planned strike Wednesday after consulting with Mumbai police.

Dalits took to the streets Monday and Tuesday, reportedly damaging buses and cars in Mumbai, obstructing traffic, and marching down railway tracks, delaying vital train services to the bustling city. Dalit leaders accused Hindu right-wing groups of inciting violence in Pune on Monday during celebrations.

The state government has ordered a judicial inquiry into the clashes.

Dalits, previously known as untouchables, are at the bottom of Hinduism's caste hierarchy and among India's poorest communities. Numbering about 200 million, they often suffer social deprivation and economic exclusion at the hands of upper-cast Hindus.

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