Seven people, including three women, have been arrested in Tamil Nadu’s Villupuram district on charges of lynching a 24-year-old Dalit youth after he defecated by a village road, The Indian Express reported on Sunday.

The attack occurred on Wednesday in a village dominated by Vanniyars, a powerful Other Backward Class community in north and north-western Tamil Nadu. The victim was identified as R Sakthivel from Karai village. He worked at a petrol pump. The accused were arrested on Friday after videos of the lynching were circulated in the area.

Sakthivel’s sister claimed it was a caste murder. “On Tuesday, he was on night duty at the petrol pump and reached home on Wednesday morning,” R Theivanai told the newspaper. “Later, he received a call from his colleagues, asking him to come with his Aadhaar card and a photo for some official verification. When he left home around 1.30 pm, he mentioned how there was only a little petrol in his two-wheeler.”

Sakthivel later called his sister to inform her that he had run out of petrol, and added he would defecate by a road. Soon after, Theivanai received a call from her brother’s phone. An unidentified man told her that a mob had tied up Sakthivel. “He asked me to reach Boothur Hills [about 5 km from their home],” she added. “It was clear there was some problem.”

When Theivanai reached the spot, she saw 15 to 20 people had gathered around her brother. “When I reached, they beat him some more,” she added. “I tried to stop them and pleaded for help, but they kicked me and my child fell to the ground. Sakthivel could hardly talk but he signalled to me to leave with the child.”

The police reportedly arrived two hours late, and directed Sakthivel and Theivanai to go home. By then Sakthivel was unconscious, and was pronounced dead by doctors at a nearby hospital.

The village residents, however, contradicted the family’s versions of events. They claimed that Sakthivel was attacked for flashing at a woman. A police officer said the victim completely removed his jeans before defecating, reported The News Minute. “A woman working on a site nearby saw him and thought he was flashing,” the officer added. “We are probing further.”

Theivanai denied the allegations, and reiterated it was a caste attack. “After the mob caught him, they checked his Aadhaar card and noted his caste name,” she claimed. “While attacking him, they kept abusing him and calling out our caste name.”

District Superintendent of Police D Jayakumar said there would be a detailed investigation to ascertain if there was a caste angle to the attack. “He died of heart attack due to the severe torture,” Jayakumar added. “A case has been registered under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act with Indian Penal Code Section 302 [punishment for murder].”