A group of 500 people who had gathered in Mumbai's Dharavi neighbourhood to raise awareness about the suicide of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad were attacked late on Sunday evening.
Conflicting reports from activists present at the rally say that at around 6.30 pm, somewhere between 15 and 40 people, all armed with lathis, charged into the crowd, targeting women in particular. Ten people are in Sion Hospital to have their injuries treated, participants said. At least five of them are Dalit.
“We were protesting peacefully when 15-20 people attacked the front lines of our rally with lathis,” said Ajmal Khan, a student at the rally, who suffered a head and chest injury. Others, he said, were injured on their head, back and hand. "There was one slogan they were shouting, saying, 'Jai Bhim walon ko maaro'. Attack the Jai Bhim people."
Shyam Sonar, a representative of the Republican Panthers organisation, said that 25-40 attackers tore the clothes of women and "misbehaved with them". He, along with reportedly hundreds of others, are now holding a protest at the Dharavi police station to ensure that all the attackers were detained.
“When they began to attack us, we also tried to catch them, but many of them ran away,” he said. “The ones we caught we have handed over to the police.
Sonar said that the protestors would remain at the police station to ensure that the authorities charged the four or five attackers they have caught under the Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, that they are arrested and that the remaining assailants are also traced.
Officials at the Mumbai police control room were unable to confirm the organisational affiliation of the attackers or other details of the incident.