Hundreds of angry Indians block roads after two lower-caste children killed in arson attack

Relatives and villagers mourn as they sit next to the bodies of two children wrapped in white shrouds, during a protest in which people block a national highway, at Ballabhgarh in the northern state of Haryana, India, October 21, 2015. © Adnan Abidi
About a thousand people blocked a major highway in India, protesting an arson attack on a lower-caste family, in which an infant and a toddler were killed. Four suspects have been arrested.
The father (L) and relatives of two children who were burnt alive wail as an ambulance carrying their bodies moves past, after a protest against the incident at Ballabhgarh, in the northern state of Haryana, India, October 21, 2015. © Adnan Abidi

Hundreds of protesters blocked Dehli-Agra highway demanding that those responsible for the children’s deaths be punished, Reuters reported. They carried the bodies of the two dead children through the streets wrapped in white burial clothes. The rally’s participants threatened to leave the children uncremated until the police apprehended the attackers.

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The crowd, however, removed barricades and dispersed when the father agreed to bury the children, a police source reported, according to the NDTV.

The police have arrested four people in connection with the deadly attack and seven more are under suspicion, according to the police officer in charge of the case, News World India reported. No one has been formally charged so far, however.

Relatives and villagers mourn as they sit next to the bodies of two children wrapped in white shrouds, outside their house at the Sunpedh village in Ballabhgarh, in the northern state of Haryana, India, October 21, 2015. © Adnan Abidi

A group of men set a fire to a home early on Tuesday morning in a village of the Faridabad district near Dehli.

A nine-month-old infant and a two-year-old toddler perished in their sleep in the burning house. The mother is reportedly still fighting for life, having suffered burns covering 70 percent of her body. The father sustained injuries to his hand while trying to save the children from the flames.

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“We were sleeping when they poured petrol from the window. I smelled the petrol and tried to wake up my wife but by then the fire had started. My children died in the fire,” the father told the Press Trust of India news agency.

The family claims the attackers were from an upper caste and carried out the arson attack in revenge for unrelated murders that took place in the same village a year ago, a police officer said.

Relatives of two children who were burnt alive, mourn during a protest at Ballabhgarh, in the northern state of Haryana, India, October 21, 2015. © Adnan Abidi

However, an official from the office of Harayana’s chief minister, Jawahar Yadav, said the incident might have been the result of a family feud having nothing to do with caste violence, according to Reuters.

“This is a fight among families, not about castes. It is an unfortunate incident,” Yadav said.

The Dalit caste is the common name for the lower castes in South Asia, previously referred to as “untouchable,” since people from higher castes were forbidden from touching anything touched by the Dalits. India’s constitution has banned the notion of “untouchability”, but the Dalits still complain of on-going discrimination.