Sun, Jul 04, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Militia kills ten in caste strife

CASTE WAR Gunmen of the land-owning Bhumihar militia opened fire on villagers from a lower caste in the Indian state of Bihar as social tensions mount in the region

AP , PATNA, INDIA

An elderly woman weeps near the body of her husband, center, who was killed in a caste massacre as other bodies lie around in Chakwai village, about 60km south of Patna, India, yesterday. Armed attackers from an upper-caste militia opened fire on villagers, killing 10 people from a lower caste as festering social tensions erupted again in India's violence-prone state of Bihar, police said.

PHOTO: AP

Attackers from an upper-caste militia opened fire on villagers, killing nine people from a lower caste as festering social tensions erupted again in India's troubled state of Bihar, police said yesterday.

Two of the dead were members of a lower-caste militia, and three other villagers suffered gunshot wounds in the attack Friday night in the state's Nawada district, Inspector General Neelmani said.

The attack took place in Chakwai village, some 60km south of Patna, Neelmani said. The victims were chatting after dinner in a village elder's courtyard when armed men raided the village.

The attackers were suspected to be members of the Akhilesh Singh gang, an outfit promoting the interests of the land-owning Bhumihar castes and frequently involved in attacks on lower-caste villagers, the officer said.

Low-caste militias such as the Ashok Mahto, which police said lost two members in Friday night's attack, in turn target upper-caste villagers and rival gangs.

The latest violence was believed to be have been carried out as revenge for the killing of two militia members outside a district court last month. Police surrounded the area and sealed all roads leading out of Nawada district in an attempt to catch the attackers.

Caste tensions run deep in Bihar, one of India's poorest states. The state is the hub of India's caste clashes, which have killed thousands and also occur in other parts of the country.

More than 70 Biharis have been killed in caste-related violence in the past two years, a senior police official said on condition of anonymity.

The lower castes, 80 percent of India's 1 billion people according to the government's estimate, still suffer far more than other groups from inequality according to social indicators such as education, income, employment, asset ownership and debt.

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