Wave of killings prompts plea for untouchables

A wave of brutal killings in northern India's impoverished countryside has brought a national outcry against the oppression of Harijans, or untouchable, low-caste Hindus.

Thirty-eight Harijans have been murdered in the last two months in an upsurge of sectarian hatred in Uttar Pradesh, India's heartland state.

Untouchability is officially outlawed, but Harijans continue to suffer daily humiliation and discrimination, particularly at the village level. In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, at least 2,000 Harijans have recently converted from Hinduism to Islam, the minority religion in India, to flee the discrimination.

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