India tension after 'cow protectors' assault Dalits in Gujarat

Dalit protest in Gujarat on Monday 18 July 2016 Image copyright Prashant Dayal
Image caption Protesters set fire to government buses and blocked a national highway

Tension has gripped parts of the Indian state of Gujarat after reports that seven men from the low-caste Dalit community had attempted suicide.

The men tried to take their own lives to protest against last week's assault on four Dalit men allegedly by the members of a Hindu hardline group.

The Dalit men were assaulted while trying to skin a dead cow.

Many Hindus consider cows sacred and the slaughter of the animal is banned in many Indian states.

Last year, a Muslim man was lynched by a violent mob that attacked his house over allegations that his family had been storing and consuming beef at home.

There have several other attacks across India where Muslim men have been accused of eating or smuggling beef.

Protesters set government buses on fire on Gondal, Dhoraji and Junagadh highway on Monday and blocked a national highway and seven men allegedly took poison at separate protest rallies by Dalit groups, police said.

A senior police official told BBC Hindi that a large number of policemen have been deployed in the region and the situation is under control.

Last week, four Dalit men, believed to be tannery workers, were stripped and beaten with sticks by men claiming to be "cow protectors".

After a video of the assault was released on the internet, eight attackers were identified and arrested.

The victims are reported to be severely wounded and are recovering in hospital.

Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel has said that her government was committed to protecting the Dalits and ordered an inquiry into the incident. Four policemen have been suspended.

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