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Terrorism & Security

Indian forces clash with low-caste protesters

Paramilitary forces have deployed in Rajasthan, India, where ethnic Gujjars are demanding job quotas.

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NDTV, one of India's leading television news channels, reports that in many villages, all the men had gone to join in the protests and that their fighting spirit was undiminished.

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"Our boy is dead, others are dying. This will go on. The deaths are inevitable. To gain something, one has to lose too," said Arjun Singh, a local resident.

NDTV, however, said the riots had more to do with an internal leadership battle – between Colonel Bainsla, a former Army officer and other, older community leaders – than the place of the Gujjars within India's reservation system.

The Hindu newspaper reported that on Sunday women joined the protests – by sitting on railway lines armed with sticks and iron rods

"The hands that wear bangles have taken up sticks now. The government will have to listen to it," a woman protester said.

Politicians, meanwhile, saw political mileage to be made out of the clashes. Sachin Pilot, a high profile member of parliament for the Congress Party, which leads at the center, said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state government of Rajasthan should quit, according to Indo-Asian News Service.

"The Vasundhara Raje government has lost its moral right and constitutional authority to continue in power. It has to admit the misgivings and must quit office now. You cannot terrorise a community."

In the meantime, television news channel Times Now said Monday that fresh unrest was being reported in more areas of the state, and that the government was concerned this would spread to neighboring states. Over 2,000 paramilitary forces had been deployed in the state, it added .

In an editorial entitled "Yearly Crisis," the Calcutta Telegraph said that the weekend's violence "looks like a particularly unfortunate case of history repeating itself" – only worse.

But the Gujjars' stand has hardened too, with nothing other than the recommendation letter for ST [Scheduled Tribe] status as their absolute demand. Ms Raje has also begun to strike a tough-talking [sic] enough-is-enough note. But this crisis is the inevitable consequence of political opportunism, which locks governments and communities in impossible, no-win spirals that neither dialogue nor violence seems to be able to resolve.

In editorial in India's leading weekly news magazine, Outlook, columnist Rajinder Puri slammed the way reservations were handed out in India.

"Going down the social ladder helps folk climb up the economic ladder," he wrote. "So it seems is the current wisdom propagated by India's politicians."

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