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Wednesday, 8 August, 2001, 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK
Couple hanged for forbidden love
Indian village
The caste system is rigidly observed across India
By Adam Mynott in Delhi

Police in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have arrested seven people after two young lovers were hanged because they came from different Indian castes.

Map showing location
The boy and girl's parents were among those arrested.

The brutal deaths highlight the problems of the rigid caste system in India.

The couple, 19-year-old Vishal and Sonu, who was 18, were hanged one after another from the roof of a house in their home village in the Muzafarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh.

Their crime - to fall in love and come from different castes.

Rigid system

Vishal was a high-caste Brahmin and Sonu was a member of the lower caste Jat community.

Hundreds watched as the couple died.

The police have arrested their parents and other close family members and according to police reports, the entire village had been opposed to their relationship.

Caste - a complex system of social stratification with its origins in Hinduism - is very rigidly observed in parts of Uttar Pradesh, and the deaths of these two young people emphasises the huge divisions in Indian society.

But India has refused to allow the caste system to be included in discussions about racial discrimination at a United Nations conference on race and xenophobia in South Africa at the end of the month.

The Indian Government claims that the caste system is based on social rather than biological differences and therefore does not fall under the ambit of racial discrimination and intolerance.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Ram Dutt Tripathi
"They were from different castes"
See also:

23 Feb 01 | South Asia
Indian 'apartheid' condemned
07 Mar 00 | South Asia
Court rules out caste differences
28 Sep 99 | South Asia
Dalits' political awakening
08 May 00 | South Asia
Arrests over India caste deaths
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