Indian men 'beaten up over moustaches'

Mr Dalit image Image copyright Unknown
Image caption Many Whatsapp users reportedly changed their display picture in solidarity

Some Indians are changing their avatars and displays on Twitter and WhatsApp in support of two men attacked for having moustaches.

Last week, a young man in Gujarat went to the police and accused some upper caste men of beating him up because he'd grown a moustache. Late on Tuesday, his cousin was knifed, reportedly by the same men.

Both men belong to the Dalit (formerly untouchable) caste. Their alleged attackers have been reported as being Rajput men from a high status in India's caste system of social stratification.

It is claimed that the Rajput men objected to men of a lower caste having moustaches.

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"When I was visiting my friend on Friday night, [the attackers] intercepted me and verbally abused me," said Krunal Maheria, according to NDTV.

"[One of the attackers] told me that I cannot become a Rajput by just sporting a moustache. When I ignored him, [he] beat me up with a stick."

In response, Indian WhatsApp users have been changing their display pictures in solidarity. And some on Twitter have been sharing images of their own moustaches, using the hashtags #MrDalit and #DalitWithMoustache.

"If moustaches on a Dalit face hurt Manuwadi and castists," tweeted one social media user, "every Dalit youth must grow lovely moustaches".

Mayur Vadher, a teacher in a private school in Kodinar area of Gujarat, told the BBC he changed his WhatsApp image in protest of the incident.

"Today, with changing India many Dalits are getting better education and dressing up well," he explained. "But this is not acceptable to people who believe in the caste system and are attacking Dalits to show their displeasure."

The plight of India's Dalits has been in the media spotlight. On Sunday, a Dalit man in Gujarat was beaten to death, allegedly for watching people dance as they celebrated the Hindu festival of Dussehra.

And in May, thousands of Dalits protested in Delhi against caste riots in Saharanpur.

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