India caste violence leaves one dead at Rohtak protest

Aftermath of rioting in Rohtak (19 February 2016) Image copyright Manoj Dhaka
Image caption Rioting in Rohtak took a turn for the worse on Friday

At least one person has been killed and up to 25 injured in the northern Indian town of Rohtak during protests by the Jat community to demand better access to jobs and education, police say.

Demonstrators set fire to the home of the Haryana state finance minister and attacked police buildings and vehicles.

Protests were also held by Jats in other towns in Haryana state.

Demands by the Jat for better quotas in government jobs have been opposed by other caste groups.

The Jats are currently listed as upper caste but they are demanding the status of Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

The community's leaders say that the quotas for OBCs and other lower castes puts them at a disadvantage in government jobs and state-run educational institutes.

Cars set alight

The state government was reported on Friday to have said it was willing to provide more job quotas for Jats.

The announcement by Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar that he was willing to introduce legislation in the next assembly session was described by the Times of India as a bid to broker peace and restore order in the state, which has seen numerous recent incidents of violence over the quota issue.

The army has been deployed in nine districts of Haryana on Friday, the Press Trust of India reported, and a curfew has been imposed in two districts along with shoot-on-sight orders.

Image copyright Manoj Dhaka
Image caption The house of Haryana Finance Minister Abhimanyu Sindhwas set on fire on Friday
Image copyright Manoj Dhaka
Image caption Youths hurled bricks at the security forces
Image copyright AP
Image caption The state government says that it is determined to bring the protests under control

Police on Friday said the violence in Rohtak began as protesters hurled rocks at paramilitary forces. They say a paramilitary soldier was injured after being shot by a protester

Haryana police chief YP Singhal told NDTV that a protester was shot by his officers after "someone in the mob fired a gun and the security personnel responded in self-defence".

Demonstrators also burned cars, attacked police jeeps and trucks, blocked traffic and tried to set the finance minister's home on fire, police said.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Police say that a protester was shot after the paramilitary forces came under fire
Image copyright Manoj Dhaka
Image caption The security forces are now out in force on the streets of Rohtak

Security had already been tightened in the town after at least 15 people were injured in a rally on Thursday.

The state government has now asked for help from the Indian army to bring the protests under control.

Demonstrations have spread to Jind, Bhiwani and some other towns in the state.

The protesters are demanding that the state government raise their caste quota benefits from the existing level of 10%.

Essential food and cooking supplies to the state have been affected by the disturbances, which have also disrupted overland transport in Haryana and closed down schools.

The Indian government's position on caste

  • The government has divided people from lower castes into three categories as part of its affirmative action policy to offer quotas in jobs and educational institutes
  • The communities listed as the Scheduled Castes (SCs) are essentially the lowest in the Hindu caste hierarchy, locally referred to as Dalits
  • The Scheduled Tribes (STs) are the people who mostly live in remote tribal areas
  • The OBCs are educationally and economically disadvantaged but do not face so much exclusion or isolation

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