India caste protesters accept state government offer

Published: February 22, 2016
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A girl waits to fill water in her containers from a municipal tap in New Delhi, India, February 21, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

A girl waits to fill water in her containers from a municipal tap in New Delhi, India, February 21, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI: Indian protesters demanding better conditions for their caste said Monday they had accepted a state government offer after days of riots that have killed at least 19 people.

“We have accepted the government offer and are in the process of consulting other Jat leaders to arrive at a consensus before deciding about calling off the agitation today,” said Yashpal Malik, head of a group of organisations representing the Jat caste.

Lockdown in parts of northern India after caste clashes

Army recaptures Delhi water source, caste protests continue

The Indian army has taken control of a canal that supplies three-fifths of Delhi’s water, the state’s chief minister said on Monday, raising hope that a water crisis in the metropolis of more than 20 million people can be averted.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted that the army had regained control from protesters of the gates of the Munak canal to the north of Delhi. He was assessing how long it would take for water to reach the city.

Protests by the Jat caste in neighbouring Haryana have paralysed road and rail links and killed at least 19 in a challenge to the authority of the state and national governments run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationalist party.

Although the government bowed on Sunday to the demand of the Jats for more government jobs and places in education, protest leaders said they would carry on their agitation.

“We will continue the protests. The government thinks we will succumb to their pressure tactics but they are making a big mistake by ignoring us,” Ramesh Dalal, convenor of the Jat Arakshan Andolan (Jat Reservation Movement), told Reuters.

“Jats are determined to win the battle. They had to send the army to control our anger but even they have failed.”

The tragedy of India’s caste system

Rioting escalated over the weekend across Haryana, a largely rural state of 25 million to the west of the national capital.

The Jats, who make up a quarter of the state’s population, are a largely rural community of landowners that has lost out as population growth has shrunk the size of family farms while two years of drought have hit their crops.

There were reports of outbreaks of inter-caste conflict in some flashpoints while residents declared others no-go areas for the police and army, despite the deployment of nearly 10,000 soldiers and border guards to quell the protests.

Protesters have burned railway stations and car showrooms, blocked road traffic and forced the cancellation of hundreds of trains. India’s largest car maker, Maruti Suzuki, has shut two factories because of disruptions to its supply chain.

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