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February 2016
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riots in north India caste crisis

Fresh rioting and arson erupted in a north Indian state Sunday in caste protests that have left at least 12 people dead, and 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 after week-long protests turned violent, with rioters setting fire to homes and railway stations and blocking highways.

At least 12 people have been killed and about 150 injured in the state since Friday, up from an earlier toll of 10, Haryana additional chief secretary P.K Das told reporters.

One person was killed in firing on Sunday and another died in a clash between two protesting groups, he said, without giving details.

The Jat rural caste is leading the protests, demanding quotas be set for Jats for highly sought-after government jobs and for university places. Caste members say they are struggling to find places despite India’s strong economic growth.

India reserves places for lower castes to try 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.

The Indian capital’s water supplies were hit after media reports said mobs forced the shutting of a canal in Haryana which takes water to the neighbouring capital’s treatment plants.

“A mob attacked the police post in Kalanaur town and set it on fire. Twenty shops adjacent to the post and a school were also gutted,” local police officer Hari Om said in Kalanaur in Haryana’s Rohtak district, the epicentre of the violence. The clashes are ongoing and we had to use firearms to break up the protesters,” the officer told AFP . Protesters maintained blockades of roads into Haryana, television footage showed. Hundreds armed with sticks halted vehicles along one key route which was also blocked with fallen trees.

Jats are the single largest community in Haryana, with nearly eight million members, and are traditionally a farming community. They have been angered by comments in recent weeks by a BJP leader who opposed reservations for them.

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 Patidar or Patel caste, who demanded the same treatment afforded to lower castes.

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