Two Dalit children have been allegedly beaten to death for defecating in the open, in Madhya Pradesh, India.

According to the local police, Roshni Valmiki, 12, and her brother Avinash, 10, were on their way to visit their grandfather in Bhakhedi village in the Shivpuri district on Wednesday morning, when they stopped to defecate in a public street. Open defecation is reportedly banned in the village.

They were then believed beaten with sticks by two brothers who lived nearby the site.

The children were pronounced dead upon arrival at the district hospital. The suspects are in police custody and are being probed for murder.

The children were cousins but Roshni was raised by Avinash's father since she was small. The boy's father, Manoj, a daily wage labourer, is too poor to afford a toilet at his house, and is unable to access a government subsidy to build toilets for the poor.

Following the incident, the children's family has decided to move out of the village, where they claim caste discrimination is still rampant.

The family has been given 60,000 rupees in financial assistance for funeral expenses, and will receive another 400,000 rupees in compensation under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Despite the government's flagship programme to increase toilet access, progress has been slow and millions of poor Indians still defecate in the open, putting especially women and children at risk.

Dalits, meanwhile, who are at the bottom of the Hindu caste system, still face widespread discrimination and marginalisation in their daily lives.

This is not the first time the Dalit community have been subjected to violence in India.

In January last year, right-wing Hindu nationalists threw rocks at Dalits who were commemorating the 200th anniversary of a battle significant to the latter community, causing the death of two men. Violence and unrest erupted in the aftermath of the killings.

In November last year, a 13-year-old Dalit girl was beheaded with a sickle by a neighbour from an upper caste, in Tamil Nadu, who was unhappy she had rejected his sexual advances.

Dalit women are also subjected to sexual violence every day, with a government statistic saying at least four women from the community are raped daily across India. The perpetrators of such crime are, ironically, often men from the upper caste.

Source: CNN, BBC, The Hindu
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