Caste discrimination in India
The Indian caste system is the social stratification and social restrictions in the Indian subcontinent, in which social classes are defined by thousands of endogamous hereditary groups. There are four "varnas.", the Brahmins (teachers, scholars and priests), the Kshatriyas(kings and warriors), the Vaishyas (agriculturists and traders), and Shudras (service providers and artisans). The Dalits, or the people outside the varna system, had the lowest social status.
Most of them worked in what were seen as unhealthy, unpleasant or polluting jobs. In the past, the Dalits suffered from social segregation and restrictions, in addition to extreme poverty. Hence tension is present between the Dalits and the other classes of people and Dalits are also the targets of hate crimes and violence.
Phoolan Devi (1963 – 2001) was an Indian dacoit (bandit), who later turned politician. Born in a lower-caste Mallah family, she was mistreated and abandoned by her husband. She was later kidnapped by a gang of dacoits. The upper-caste Thakur leader of the gang tried to rape her, but she was protected by the deputy leader Vikram, who belonged to her caste. Later, an upper-caste Thakur friend of Vikram killed him, abducted Phoolan, and locked her up in the Behmai village. Phoolan was raped in the village by Thakur men, until she managed to escape after three weeks.
Phoolan Devi then formed a gang of Mallahs, which carried out a series of violent robberies in north and central India, mainly targeting upper-caste people. Some say that Phoolan Devi targeted only the upper-caste people and shared the loot with the lower-caste people, but the Indian authorities insist this is a myth. Seventeen months after her escape from Behmai, Phoolan returned to the village, to take her revenge. On February 14, 1981, her gang massacred twenty-two Thakur men in the village, only two of which were involved in her kidnapping or rape. Phoolan Devi later surrendered and served eleven years in prison, after which she became a politician. During her election campaign, she was criticized by the women widowed in the Behmai massacre. Kshatriya Swabhimaan Andolan Samanvay Committee (KSASC), a Kshatriya organization, held a statewide campaign to protest against her. She was elected a Member of Parliament twice.
On July 25, 2001, Phoolan Devi was shot dead by unknown assassins. Later, a man called Sher Singh Rana confessed to the murder, saying he was avenging the deaths of 22 Kshatriyas at Behmai. Although the police were skeptical of his claims, he was arrested. Rana escaped fromTihar Jail in 2004. In 2006, KSASC decided to honor Rana for "upholding the dignity of the Kshatriya community" and "drying the tears of the widows of Behmai."