India caste riots death toll rises to 19, army recaptures Delhi water source

Published February 22, 2016
People block Chandigarh Shimla highway in Panchkula in Haryana state, India, Sunday Feb. 21, 2016.—AP
People block Chandigarh Shimla highway in Panchkula in Haryana state, India, Sunday Feb. 21, 2016.—AP

SONIPAT: The death toll from caste riots in northern India has risen to 19, a state government official told AFP on Monday, adding that the protests had eased overnight.

Authorities said some districts had now lifted a curfew imposed after the outbreak Friday of deadly riots in Haryana state by members of the Jat rural caste.

“Nineteen people have died and more than 200 are injured,” said Haryana additional chief secretary P. K. Das.

“There were a few clashes in parts of Bhiwani district overnight, where a curfew is still on, but the curfew has been lifted in other districts."

Burnt vehicles by protesters are seen piled up in Rohtak, in Haryana state, India, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016.—AP
Burnt vehicles by protesters are seen piled up in Rohtak, in Haryana state, India, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016.—AP

“Most of the road links have been restored in the state and we hope to be in control of the situation by the end of the day,” said Das.

Water source cleared

The Indian army has taken control of a canal that supplies three-fifths of Delhi's water, the state's chief minister said, 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.

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.

This general view shows deserted streets and damaged shops following caste violence in the Indian city of Rohtak on February 21, 2016.—AFP
This general view shows deserted streets and damaged shops following caste violence in the Indian city of Rohtak on February 21, 2016.—AFP

“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.”

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.

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.

Members of the Jat caste say they are struggling to find work despite India's strong economic growth.

India sets aside a proportion of jobs and university places for Dalits, known as “untouchables”, and for other so-called “backward castes”, under measures intended to remedy centuries of discrimination.

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