NEW DELHI: Ten people have died in caste protests which triggered widespread arson and looting in a north Indian state, police said Sunday, as New Delhi faced a water crisis after mobs shut down a key supply.
Thousands of troops with shoot-on-sight orders were deployed on Saturday in Haryana state, a day after week-long protests turned violent with rioters setting fire to homes and railway stations and blocking highways.
Ten people have been killed and about 150 injured in the state since Friday when officers fired on rioters, Haryana police chief Yash Pal Singal told a press conference, updating earlier estimates of five dead.
Television images showed mobs wielding sticks rampaging through the streets in Haryana state, setting fire to a local government minister’s house and railway stations, damaging train tracks and blocking two key highways.
“There were clashes during the night across the district. Over a dozen buildings were set on fire by protesters, with incidents of looting of shops and ATMs at two places,” an officer said on condition of anonymity.
A local police officer in Jhajjar, whose district borders that of Rohtak, earlier told AFP that five people were killed on Saturday “when the army opened fire on a mob”.
A week-long protest by members of the state’s dominant Jat caste, who are demanding quotas for government jobs and in education, turned violent on Friday as police fired on protesters.
India sets aside a proportion of jobs and educational places to people from so-called lower and backward castes — measures intended to bring victims of the worst discrimination into the mainstream.
The Jats, a comparatively affluent group, want the same special allowances to put them on an equal footing with lower castes.
The Jats make up 29 per cent of Haryana’s population and are traditionally a farming community. The latest protests echo caste violence that swept the western state of Gujarat in August last year, leaving several dead.
That state saw weeks of protests by the privileged Patidar or Patel caste, who demanded the same treatment afforded to lower castes.But the policy of “reservation” causes resentment among other communities who say it freezes them out.
Smaller protests broke out in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh state, which also borders Delhi, late on Saturday, as hundreds of Jat demonstrators blocked a main highway.