MUMBAI, India — Mumbai, India’s bustling commercial hub, came to a standstill on Wednesday as protesters called for a general strike and thousands took to the streets.
The catalyst for the strike was violence against members of the lower-caste Dalits, or so-called untouchables, that occurred when several hundred thousand gathered on New Year’s Day at a monument southeast of Mumbai to commemorate the victory 200 years ago of a British-led force against high-caste Hindus.
But as marchers blocked train tracks and highways, they also expressed deeper frustrations with both of India’s major political parties, which they accuse of failing to improve the lot of the hundreds of millions of Indians who have traditionally been stuck at the bottom of the country’s economic and social hierarchy.
“We are here to demand justice,” said Jitender Nikalje, a Dalit protester.
On Wednesday, both houses of Parliament were repeatedly adjourned in response to the protests. Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the opposition Congress party, wrote on Twitter that the attacks by far-right Hindus were part of a “fascist vision” by India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., which has ties to Hindu nationalist groups, to keep Dalits “at the bottom of Indian society.”