Deadly caste violence hits Indian state

Deadly caste violence hits Indian state

MUMBAI,. Violent clashes between police and an Indian community demanding quotas for government jobs erupted in the western state of Maharashtra for a third day yesterday.

Police fired tear gas and baton charged thousands of protesters from the Maratha community, who had attacked buses and blocked train lines and roads.

Protests broke out across the state on Monday, when a Maratha community activist jumped to his death from a bridge.

Another activist killed himself with poison yesterday, while a police officer died in clashes Tuesday.

More than 30,000 police were deployed across the state for the day’s protests, which started in the city of Thane and have spread to nearby Mumbai and other areas.

Protesters attacked buses, set cars and trucks alight and threw stones at trains, police said.

Two major highways out of Mumbai, India’s financial capital, were also blocked for several hours.

Police used tear gas and staged baton charges in several places to clear the roads of demonstrators, before Maratha leaders called off protests due to escalating tensions.

The community, which make up about 30 percent of Maharashtra’s population of 110 million, has for years been pressing for more reserved jobs in the government and education. A rally by hundreds of thousands paralysed Mumbai last year.

State chief minister Devendra Fadnavis called in a statement for talks with the Marathas on their jobs claims.

One bid to reserve more jobs for the Marathas was cancelled by an Indian court in 2014.

Maharashtra is an important agricultural state but in recent years poor rains have led to crop failures. Many Marathas were among more than 2,500 farmers who committed suicide in the state in 2017, according to official figures.

Jobs campaigns by groups like the Marathas in Maharashtra and Patidars in Gujarat state have claimed many lives in recent years.

Yesterday a court in Gujarat sentenced a firebrand Patidar leader, Hardik Patel, to two years in prison for rioting and arson during 2015 jobs protests that left 10 dead.

“If it is a sin to fight for social justice and rights, then I am a sinner,” tweeted a defiant Hardik Patel after he was granted bail.

— AFP