Angry villagers reportedly tied the children, aged between 13 and 15, to a tree, thrashed and stripped them naked in Rajasthan state’s Chittorgarh area after they were accused of stealing an upper-caste man’s motorcycle.
The footage on the NDTV news channel showed a group of men hitting the naked teenagers, from India’s lowest Dalit caste, as they appeared to crouch down to save themselves from the blows.
Police said they had registered cases against both the boys and their attackers after the assault, which occurred on Saturday.
“It isn’t an upper caste versus lower caste case. This is a case of theft and mob fury — both are wrong. We arrested six from the mob today,” Gaj Singh, a senior police officer of Chittorgarh, told AFP by telephone.
Singh said the villagers involved in the assault were also from the same Kanjar tribe as the victims.
Kanjars are a socially stigmatised nomadic community found across northern and central India whose members often face such discrimination that they are forced to live outside villages and towns.
Manan Chaturvedi, the head of Rajasthan’s child rights commission, promised to investigate.
“We are forming a committee that will investigate this matter and then appropriate action will be taken after proper evidence is found,” she said.
“Not only the police, but those bystanders watching and taking videos should have been active. Had they stepped in, I don’t think any of this would have happened.”
Kailash Satyarthi, the Indian child rights activist and Nobel peace laureate, called on his Twitter followers to demand “immediate action” over what he called a “barbaric attack”.
Caste discrimination is officially illegal in India. But it still pervades many aspects of daily life, especially in the underdeveloped rural areas where more than half the population lives.