Low-caste pregnant woman and husband attacked in India

AHMEDABAD, India - A low-caste pregnant woman and her husband were beaten with sticks after refusing to allow a group of higher-caste men to graze cattle on their farmland in India, police said Tuesday.

The alleged attack in western Gujarat state is the latest incidents of violence against Dalits, who lie at the bottom of India's deeply entrenched social hierarchy system.

Police said Rekha Sankhat, who is six months pregnant, and her husband were recovering in hospital after the assault in the town of Una, and had registered a complaint.

"Babu and his wife were abused by the upper-caste members," local sub-inspector MA Vala told AFP.

"A complaint has been registered. Further investigation will be conducted," he said.

Vala said the unborn child was unharmed in the attack, but Rekha has sustained injuries on her legs and shoulder.

In a similar case in September, a low-caste pregnant woman and her family were attacked for refusing to clear away a cow carcass.

Dalits, formerly known as "untouchables," are commonly tasked with removing dead cows from streets, where the animals often roam freely.

Anger and protests erupted among the community in July after cow-protection vigilantes wrongly accused four Dalit villagers of killing a cow - considered sacred in India - and stripped and publicly thrashed them.

A video of that incident, which also took place in Gujarat's Una town, had gone viral and prompted enraged Dalits to call for an end to outlawed but still practised caste discrimination.

Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has since urged a halt to attacks on Dalits and an end to all caste discrimination.

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