Lockdown in northern India as caste violence flares

Protesters of India’s Jat community block a highway linking New Delhi to Rohtak at Bahadurgarh, Haryana state, India, Saturday.

Protesters of India’s Jat community block a highway linking New Delhi to Rohtak at Bahadurgarh, Haryana state, India, Saturday.


Indian authorities issued shoot-on-sight orders and deployed thousands of troops in a northern state neighboring New Delhi Saturday, after escalating caste protests left at least one dead, officials said.

The BJP government in Haryana said it has “accepted” the demands of the community which is seeking quota under OBC category.

Appealing to protesters to end their stir, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar in a statement here this afternoon asked agitators to “return to their homes as the government has accepted their demands”, but did not elaborate.

Television images showed mobs wielding sticks rampaging through the streets in northern Haryana state, setting fire to a local government minister’s house and railway stations, damaging train tracks and blocking two key highways.

A week-long protest by the state’s dominant Jat caste, who are demanding quotas for government jobs and in education, turned violent Friday as police fired on protesters with local reports saying four had died.

Jats, a comparatively affluent caste group, want the same special allowances that are afforded to lower castes facing societal discrimination, but other groups oppose the call.

Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar appealed for calm Saturday afternoon and urged people not to damage public property.

“I appeal to the people especially the youth to stop the protests. Nothing will be gained by destroying property,” Khattar said in a televised interview.

In Rohtak district, the center of the protests, a mob defied the security clampdown and set fire to a police station, a petrol pump, a community hall and shops, police told AFP. “It was a 3,000-strong mob with axes, iron rods and sticks. We had to run for safety,” Rajender Singh, a local police official told AFP.

With protests spreading across the state, more than 5,000 army and paramilitary troopers patrolled the streets to impose a round-the-clock curfew in eight districts.


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