Clashes in W. India Over Caste Protest

Clashes in W. India Over Caste ProtestClashes in W. India Over Caste Protest

Fresh communal clashes erupted in western India on Wednesday as police and paramilitary forces tried to quell riots led by members of a farming caste demanding government benefits.

Authorities imposed a curfew Tuesday night in at least five cities in Gujarat State, after mobs attacked police with stones and sticks and burned vehicles, AP reported.

Cellphone communications were blocked in the state’s main city of Ahmadabad to stop both rumors from spreading and gangs from coordinating their movements.

No casualties have been reported as the leader of the Patidars, also known as the Patel community for the last name they share, called a general strike Wednesday.

There were isolated clashes between protesters and police in several other cities in Gujarat, including the diamond cutting and polishing hub of Surat. TV stations reported that police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds in some parts of the state.

The Patels are demanding the special status given to many minorities in India, guaranteeing them a share of government jobs and school places.

They make up about 20% of Gujarat’s 63 million people and say their livelihoods based on seasonal farming and small industry have become increasingly difficult amid India’s agricultural malaise and rapid economic growth marked by high inflation.