In India, claims that a Dalit woman has been ordered to pay compensation to the high-caste owners of a dog she fed are being investigated by the police. (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk)
According to the woman, the village council wants her to pay a fine of 15,000 rupees ($330) for feeding the dog, which the owners have now kicked out.
Although they are reported to have said the dog is “untouchable”, they deny being motivated by caste considerations.
Discrimination against Dalits is an offence in India, but it is widespread.
Dalits make up nearly 20% of the Indian population. They say little has changed despite the government enacting various laws banning caste-based discrimination.
‘He got very angry’
The incident took place in Malikpur village in Morena district in central Madhya Pradesh state.
“I made some roti [Indian bread] and took it to my husband who works in a farm. After I had fed him, we had some leftovers which I gave to the dog,” the Dalit woman, Sunita Jatav, said.
She said the owner of the dog, Amrutlal Kirari, saw her feeding him.
“He got very angry and said ‘You’ve fed my dog, it has become an untouchable now’.”
Jatav said the dog, a black mongrel called Sheru, was left tied to a pole outside her house.
On Monday, the village council met and decided that Sheru had been defiled and hence Kirari should be paid 15,000 rupees as compensation, Jatav alleged.
She approached the district collector of Morena on Tuesday and he ordered an inquiry into the incident.
Senior police officer in the area, Baldev Singh, told the BBC that he was investigating the matter.
He said Kirari had alleged that after eating the bread, Sheru fell ill.
He added that Kirari said he abandoned the dog at Jatav’s house so she could look after it and nurse it back to health.
Dalits, formerly untouchables, are considered at the bottom of the Hindu caste system. Any discrimination against them is an offence and punishable by law.