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Gujarat quota protests turn violent

Friday, August 28, 2015

Parts of the Indian state of Gujarat have been under curfew since Tuesday. At least seven are reported dead, with over 100 buses and dozens of police stations burned, after protests over job quotas turned violent in several major cities including Ahmedabad, Surat, and Rajkot.

Each and every issue can be resolved through talks

The violence is thought to have started after a brief attempt by police to arrest protest leader Hardik Patel, 22 or 21. There have been weeks of protests by members of the Patel caste, with the most recent involving an estimated half a million people.

Ahmedabad, the largest city in the state, has seen the closure of public transport, internet access, schools, and businesses. Ahmedabad is being patrolled by 400 military personnel. The national government has deployed several thousand paramilitary personnel to assist the state government.

The Patel caste, who form up to a fifth of the state population, are generally seen as being affluent businesspeople. However, they want their community to be given the status of Other Backward Class, which would result in eligibility for reserved jobs. They feel they are under-represented in higher education and are suffering in a regional economic downturn.

Amongst those calling for an end to the violence was Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said “each and every issue can be resolved through talks” during a televised broadcast. He was elected last year and was previously the Chief Minister of Gujarat for more than twelve years. He was in power in Gujurat during sectarian violence in 2002 which resulted in about a thousand deaths.

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