Caste violence erupts in India over 200-year-old faultline

NEW DELHI, INDIA - JANUARY 3: High security in front of Maharashtra Sadan in view of recent violence against dalits in Mahararshtra on January 3, 2018 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

(CNN)Security forces were out in full force in India's financial capital Mumbai this week, as members of the country's low-caste Dalit community demonstrated against alleged violence by right-wing Hindus.

The unrest was concentrated in suburban areas on the outskirts of India's largest city, which also saw transport disruptions.
There were also sporadic protests across the state of Maharashtra, which Mumbai is located in.
    Protesters gather near near Pune Station, following clashes between Dalits and supporters of right-wing Hindu groups January 2, 2018, Pune, India.

    How did it start?

      It all began when tens of thousands of Dalits, who rank at the bottom of India's ancient Hindu caste hierarchy, gathered in the village of Bhima Koregaon, 170 kilometers (105 miles) outside of Mumbai, on New Year's day to celebrate the 200th anniversary of a battle in which British colonial forces staffed with local Dalit fighters defeated a numerically superior army belonging to upper caste rulers of the region.
      In the years since, many Dalits have come to regard the battle as an important historical moment when their community stood up against oppressive higher caste Hindus.
      This year, Dalit activists claim that the annual commemoration was interrupted by right wing Hindu nationalists, who they say threw rocks at the gathering.
        The situation deteriorated as riots broke out and two men died in the chaos, according to local media.
        Dalit demonstrators shout slogans and protest in the Indian capital New Delhi, on January 3, 2018.

        What were they commemorating?

        The battle between British-led forces and the local Indian rulers occurred during a period of British military expansionism in India.
        Every year, Dalits travel from across India to pay homage at the memorial in honor of the soldiers.
        The numbers may be debated, said Chandra Bhan Prasad, an independent researcher and writer on Dalit issues, but what is clear is that the ruling army was much larger.
        Further, the anniversary of the battle at Bhima Koregaon is a historical moment of triumph for Dalits against people who they viewed as oppressors. Although the battle was fought for the British, it had a dual significance for the Dalit soldiers.
        "They were also fighting for their own dignity," Prasad said.
        Protests breakout in the Thane region of Maharashtra near Mumbai.

        How does the caste system work?

        In Hinduism's caste system, Dalits are traditionally at the bottom rung. Members of the higher caste sometimes consider them impure, and in certain places, they still aren't allowed to enter the homes or temples of the upper-caste community or share utensils with them.
        This practice, despite being unconstitutional, is still prevalent in parts of India, and Dalits continue t