On October 15th, in the eastern state of Bihar, India, a 15 year old goatherd, Sai Ram, was allegedly killed at the hands of Sanjay Singh alias Kunkun Singh (45) in Mohanpur village.
On the tragic Wednesday evening, Ram left 3 goats outside his house grazing, as he went home to eat with his elder brother Munna (18). The goats proceeded to wander into the nearby paddy field, which was owned by Singh, an influential man in the village, and ate the standing paddy crop. The owner drove the goats off his land and back into the village and then approached Ram’s house, shouting curses and threatening the boys.
As Munna opened the gate, to approach Singh, the elder man began to beat the 18 year old. As Ram stepped in to help his brother, Singh overpowered him and Ram was left badly beaten, by the landowner and a group of men. According to the neighbours, who were too afraid to intervene on the attack, the 45 year old then lifted a container of petrol and poured it over the boy, and lit him on fire. Whilst the boy was rushed to hospital for treatment, he succumbed to his injuries after sustaining 90% burns.
This attack came as a result of the long lasting conflict between the different castes in the village, where caste hierarchy still defines the lives and deaths of the people. Ram, was a Dalit, which in the caste hierarchy is the lowest rung, whilst Singh is from a higher, landowning caste.
It is also only one of many violent incidents which have been occurring as a consequence of caste discrimination in the area. It follows a group of upper-caste men who allegedly gang-raped five Dalit women in central Bihar earlier this month; as well as hundreds of Dalit families being forced to leave their homes in two of Bihar’s districts, due to a community member contesting a local election against higher caste candidates.
However the authorities in Mohanpur village have ensured that they are taking this case very seriously. Ram’s family have been given 500,000 Rupees (£5,043) in compensation and Singh was arrested on the 16th of October, with a speedy trial being ordered by the Bihar Chief Minister.
However, for his father, nothing can compensate Ram’s death, who stated “My entire world is lost now”.