Two Indian children, both from a marginalized caste, were allegedly beaten to death because they defecated in public, authorities say.
A 10-year-old boy, Avinash Valmiki, and his 12-year-old relative, a girl named Roshni, were “defecating on a public street” in a central Indian Bhavkhedi village — where that’s prohibited — within the Madhya Pradesh state Wednesday morning when they were allegedly beaten with sticks, according to local police deputy superintendent Viren Singh, CNN reports. Both children were of the Dalit caste and the family told BBC Hindi that their home doesn’t have a toilet.
Singh said the children, thought to be heading to their grandfather, were beaten before they were both taken to a district hospital and declared dead.
According to Rajesh Chandel, the superintendent of police in the Shivpuri district where the crime took place, Hakam Singh and Rameshwar Singh have been arrested and “are mentally stable,” Reuters reports.
“During the interrogation they have said they committed this crime,” Chandel said. The investigation is ongoing.
According to CNN, the accused are brothers. BBC identifies them as upper-caste men, Hakim Yadav and Rameshwar Yadav.
The attack followed a verbal altercation between the suspects’ family and the victims’ family where the suspects wielded “casteist slurs,” according to Chandel and Avinash’s father, Manoj Balmiki. (CNN identifies the victims as siblings, while Reuters says Roshni was Avinash’s aunt.)
Balmiki, 32, noted “a lot of untouchability issues in our village.”
Dalits are an Indian ethnic group deemed “unclean” and untouchable by higher castes, CNN notes, adding they are one of the country’s most marginalized groups. This dates back to the country’s caste system. Though caste-based discrimination is now illegal, it’s still common in India.
On Wednesday, the Office of Kamal Nath, Madhya Pradesh’s Chief Minister, tweeted about the attack, calling the deaths “very heartbreaking.”
“Instructions for strict action against the accused,” he continued. “Instructions for all possible help of the family, to have complete protection of the family.”
The victims’ family was given the equivalent of $845 by authorities to help with expenses, including funeral costs. Indian law also mandates they receive the equivalence of $5,600 in compensation.