A young girl and her 10-year-old nephew were beaten to death by two men after they defecated outside. In what appears to be the latest case of violence against lower-class - or 'caste' - children in India, a 12-year-old girl, named only as Roshni, and her nephew Avinash were violently attacked by the men. The shocking killings happened at around 6.30am on Wednesday. Rajesh Chandel, superintendent of police in Shivpuri, a district in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, told news agency Reuters that two men have been arrested. They were named as Hakam Singh and Rameshwar Singh. Superintendent Chandel said: "The accused are mentally stable and during the interrogation, they have said they committed this crime."He added that the investigation was continuing. India is seeing repeat incidents of communal violence and still sees widespread discrimination on the basis of caste, despite it being illegal. Incidents of violence against lower-caste children are especially still prevalent in rural areas. The two men belonged to what is known officially as 'scheduled castes', but also called 'Dalits', or 'untouchables' for their position in India's ancient caste hierarchy. Both superintendent Chandel and the father of 10-year-old victim Avinash, Manoj Balmiki, said the murders followed an earlier verbal altercation between the two families where 'casteist slurs' were used by the accused.
Mr. Balmiki, 32, said: "There is a lot of untouchability issues in our village."Our children cannot play with their children."Poor sanitation that forces Indians to defecate outdoors is one of the country's biggest health issues, and its eradication has been a top priority for the Bharatiya Janata Party government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi launched the Swachh Bharat, or Clean India, mission in 2014, and has promised to make India 'open defecation free' (ODF) by Oct. 2 this year. This week Modi was given an award by the Gates Foundation at a ceremony in New York for his role in the scheme. Swachh Bharat has constructed more than a hundred million toilets for some of the poorest in Indian society, according to official data, but problems in some areas remain. Anugraha P, the district's top civil servant, told Reuters that Bhaukhedi village, where the two families live, had been declared as ODF in 2018, but that Mr. Balmiki's house did not have a toilet.