NEW DELHI - Hundreds of Indian security forces enforced a curfew on a tense district Wednesday after a mob set fire to the homes of two political figures from the country’s low-caste Dalit community.

Amid heightened communal tensions over caste rights, some 5,000 people angered by earlier Dalit protests torched the houses Tuesday of a state legislator and former lawmaker in the Karauli district of the popular tourist state of Rajasthan.

Neither was at home at the time, the district’s top administrative official told AFP. “We have made some arrests following the arson and violence. A curfew is in place and we have also deployed 600-700 extra security personnel,” said Abhimanyu Kumar.

The incident followed violent nationwide protests by tens of thousands of Dalits on Monday which left at least 11 people dead.

Once dismissed as “untouchables”, Dalits make up 200 million of India’s 1.25 billion population and are at the bottom of the caste hierarchy. They have been enraged at a Supreme Court ruling that they say weakens a law intended to protect lower caste communities.

The court last month banned the automatic arrest of people accused of attacking or harassing Dalits and other marginalised groups. While the court says its intention was to prevent fake cases, Dalit leaders say the community is now more vulnerable to attacks.

Discrimination has become a political issue in the run-up to a national election that must be held before May 2019.

India’s ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party has accused opposition parties of orchestrating the protests. The BJP government has however filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to overturn its ruling. Monitoring Desk adds: Opposition Congress party on Wednesday condemned the police action against Dalit youth and demanded the immediate release of those who had been arrested under false charges and the withdrawal of cases against them.

Congress leader Nitin Raut alleged the “anti-Dalit face of the BJP” was exposed by the “revengeful action” against those who participated in a Bharat Bandh on April 2.

“The Congress Party condemns all forms of violence by anti-social elements in the peaceful agitation. Congress strongly condemns the brutal police action against innocent Dalit youths and demands the immediate release of those arrested in false cases,” he said.

Raut also called for the immediate arrest of those who had killed Dalit youth “staging a peaceful agitation” against the dilution of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989. “We further demand that the cases registered against innocent Dalit be withdrawn immediately,” he said in a statement.

Raut said as political vendetta in the states where the BJP is in power, BJP leaders and workers were providing to the police names of Dalit youth who are workers of Congress and other parties, and the police were “picking them at night and slapping false cases against them”.

He claimed women and children were being picked up from their houses at night. “The youth have fled their houses to avoid police torture,” Raut said.

In the statement, Raut claimed the police in BJP-ruled states were not looking into who had killed the Dalits in the agitation. “Instead, the police which seem to be controlled from the states BJP office is taking action against innocent Dalits. In BJP-ruled states, the anti-Dalit face of the BJP stands exposed by their revengeful action,” it said.

The statement claimed Dalit youth arrested were being beaten up by the police. “The police and the government have never taken such repressive and revengeful action against participants of any other agitation,” it said.