“India has been the same for 2,000 years,” said Shobhit Ambavade, who brought his twin 11-year-old sons to the march. “People are still dominated and humiliated by the upper castes.”

Mr. Ambavade, whose aunt and uncle were at the giant event on Monday, near the city of Pune in the western state of Maharashtra, said he and other protesters believed far-right Hindu groups affiliated with the B.J.P. had planned and carried out attacks there that left one man dead and several people injured.

But he said both parties had failed to help low-caste Indians and others on the fringes of society. “Congress is slow poison,” he said. “B.J.P. is instant.”

By shutting down Mumbai for a day, he and other protesters hoped to prompt swift arrests of the Pune assailants and to draw India’s attention to those left behind despite India’s booming economy.

That message was similar to the one sent by Dalits and other marginalized groups in state elections last month in Gujarat, where the B.J.P., led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is from Gujarat, suffered some erosion of its governing majority.

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Police officers detained Dalits, who rank at the lower end of India’s caste system, in Mumbai on Tuesday.

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Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Every year, thousands of Indians assemble near Pune to commemorate the Battle of Koregaon, when Dalits were hired by the British Army to defeat upper-caste Hindu rulers 200 years ago.

The 1818 battle is seen as a point of community pride for Dalits, who are at the bottom of India’s stratified caste system and have long been subjected to discrimination.

But the celebrations turned sour this year, with scuffles breaking out on Monday and Tuesday between Dalits and far-right Hindu protesters, who started pelting stones at people leaving the event.

The unrest in Pune fanned out to Mumbai, about 75 miles northwest, where schools, trains and businesses shut down on Wednesday. Dalit protesters, reacting to the violence near Pune, blocked traffic, hurled stones at buses and deflated tires in some areas of the city.

In the cosmopolitan Pali Hill area of Mumbai, only pharmacies were open on Wednesday, having received special permission from protest organizers. Fruit and vegetable sellers, who usually do brisk business during the day, covered their wares with burlap bags, keeping a watchful eye for protesters.

In 1818, members of the Mahar community, who are Dalits, were recruited by the British East India Company to fight in the Battle of Koregaon, when a small group of army men apparently defeated thousands of Peshwas, high-caste Hindus.

For generations, Peshwa rulers had imposed horrific conditions on Dalits, who were considered so unclean that they were forced to wear pots around their necks so that their spit would not touch the ground.

According to news reports, the Akhil Bhartiya Brahman Mahasangh, a group of upper-caste Brahmins, had urged the police in Pune to halt a seminar involving Dalit and leftist leaders a day before the commemoration on Monday, saying it would “spread casteism.”

Vishwajeet Deshpande, who leads Akhil Bhartiya Brahman Mahasangh in Maharashtra State, said by telephone on Wednesday that his group had nothing to do with the violence this week, and attributed it to “Hindu hard-liners” unaffiliated with his organization. But he did take issue with the Dalit version of the centuries-old battle.

“That battle was not decisive,” he said. “Nobody was defeated or victorious in that war.”

Devendra Fadnavis, the chief minister of Maharashtra, told reporters on Tuesday that violence at the event had been contained by the police. “Some people are trying to create caste tensions,” he said. “We should not allow them to succeed.”

Dalits have made inroads in securing higher-paying jobs in India’s public and private sectors. Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of a Dalit leader, said at a news conference that celebrating the Battle of Koregaon represented a “symbol of social and religious freedom” for the community.

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