Fresh violence in north India in deadly caste crisis
Fresh violence erupted overnight in a north Indian state in an escalating and deadly crisis over caste, as neighbouring New Delhi Sunday announced water rationing after rampaging 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.
Protesters again took to the streets overnight despite the stepped-up security, setting fire to shops in Haryana’s Rohtak district which is the epicentre of the violence, a local police officer told AFP.
“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,” the officer said on condition of anonymity.
A senior local officer warned the situation was also tense in the neighbouring town of Jhajjar, as the state’s upper Jat caste kept up their agitation.
“We are not in control. The situation is very tense as thousands of protesters are on roads encircling the main administrative area in the town,” Jhajjar police chief Rajiv Kumar told AFP.
The Jats are demanding quotas for government jobs and university places for their caste, saying they are struggling to find opportunities despite India’s strong economic growth.
India reserves places for lower castes in measures intended to bring victims of the country’s worst discrimination into the mainstream. But the policy causes resentment among other communities, who say it freezes them out.
At least five people were killed in Saturday’s violence, a local police officer said, although local media have put the death toll since Friday when the violence erupted as high as eight.
“Five people were killed on Saturday, when the army opened fire on a strong mob trying to attack a government installation. Four are critical,” a police officer in Jhajjar, who declined to be named, told AFP.
The crisis has hit the Indian capital’s water supplies after mobs forced the shutting of sluice gates at a canal in Haryana which supplies water to New Delhi treatment plants.
After holding emergency meetings, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced water rationing throughout the city, and said schools would be closed on Monday to help preserve supplies.
“Water to be equally rationed amongst all. Pl save water. Schools closed tomo,” Kejriwal said on Twitter.