Protests disrupted business in India's financial hub of Mumbai for a second day on Wednesday as lower-caste Dalits pelted buses, blocked rail lines and shut malls after clash with right-wing Hindus.

India has about 200 million Dali, who were previously known as untouchables, and many suffer social deprivation and economic exclusion. January 3, 2018
India has about 200 million Dali, who were previously known as untouchables, and many suffer social deprivation and economic exclusion. January 3, 2018 ( Reuters )

Demonstrators from India's lowest caste blocked roads and railways across Mumbai on Wednesday in protest against violence involving Hindu nationalist groups at an event commemorating a 200-year-old battle.

Members of the Dalit community obstructed roads, damaged buses and marched down railway tracks, delaying train services which are the lifeline of India's bustling financial capital.

Some schools and business opted to close as a precaution while the city's famous lunchbox delivery men, called "Dabbawalas," also cancelled their services.

The Dalits, who rank at the bottom in India's ancient caste hierarchy, called the strike in protest against an attack by right-wing groups in the city of Pune, 150 kilometres (95 miles) from Mumbai, on Monday.

The attack came as the community was celebrating the 200th anniversary of a battle they won, fighting alongside British colonial forces, against an upper-caste ruler. A 28-year-old man was killed in the clashes, according to the state government.

The state government has ordered a judicial inquiry into the clashes.

Mumbai police said more than 100 demonstrators had been arrested and nine cases of unlawful activity had been registered.

Police also said protesters burned a few buses round the state, while dozens of buses and cars were damaged in Mumbai.

"The government didn't arrest the perpetrators of violence in Pune. Hindu group members were beating Dalits and the police were just watching from afar," said protester Sandeep Kamble. "We are demanding the arrest of the culprits."

On Wednesday politicians called for a peaceful end to the violence.

"There is an attempt to create a social divide which we have to foil unitedly," said Neelam Gorhe, a leader of the right-wing Hindu party Shiv Sena.

Dalits have been ostracised by upper-caste Hindus for centuries for doing jobs they deemed impure, such as working in tanneries and picking garbage.

"We've called for a bandh (shutdown), but we're not forcing people. They can join us or stay away," said Prakash Ambedkar, a leader of the Dalit community.

In parts of the Mumbai suburb of Thane, officials banned the assembly of crowds, small or large. Schools were closed in some cities, while internet access was also limited.

Fleet taxis, along with cab-hailing services like Uber and Ola, were also largely off the roads in Mumbai on Wednesday, while several offices asked employees to work from home. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies