Dudhabhai Kalabhai knew the rules: He could stand outside the village temple and join his hands in a quick, whispered prayer. He was not to linger or attempt to climb the steps.
As a Dalit, part of the lowest rung of Hinduism’s ancient caste system, his mere touch, to some, would render the shrine unclean.
But one morning in March 2015, two upper-caste villagers thought Dudhabhai ventured too close to the temple entrance. They thrashed the 70-year-old farmer with sticks, hospitalizing him with arm and leg injuries.
Family members said police in the western Indian state of Gujarat at first refused to take the case seriously. It wasn’t until the human rights...