3 get death for Indian caste murders
New Delhi – An Indian court sentenced three men to death in the 1996 murders of 21 members of the low-caste Dalit community, most of whom where women and children, officials said.
Twenty other defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment by the court in the eastern state of Bihar in connection with the killings in the western district of Bhojpur.
Judge AK Srivastava last week found the defendants – activists in Ranvir Sena, a private militia of upper-caste land owners – guilty of having carried out the carnage in July 1996.
More than 50 Sena members had raided the village and killed Dalits, mostly women and children. The court had earlier acquitted 30 other defendants in the case for lack of evidence.
Although caste-based discrimination is banned in India, upper-caste Hindus still practice various forms of discrimination, including not allowing the lower caste to worship at temples.
Atrocities against Dalits are common, and a number of incidents of torture or murders of people belonging to the community are reported regularly.
In another murder case, a court in Ghaziabad, a suburb near New Delhi, issued a death sentence to a suspected serial killer for raping and murdering a 7-year-old girl.
Surinder Koli, who used to work as domestic help in the Noida area near Ghaziabad, is also charged in the murders of 18 young women and children from 2005 to 2006.
This was the second death sentence for Koli in connection with the killings. He has been tried in two murders so far.
"Koli is accused in a number of horrifying killings which shocked the nation," state prosecutor Jaiprakash Sharma said. "The court took note of the brutal killing and has given him a death sentence."
Those sentenced on Wednesday were likely to appeal.