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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 May 2007, 04:17 GMT 05:17 UK
Army deployed after India riots
Gujjars hurl stones at public buses during clashes in Rajasthan on Tuesday
Protesters and police fought pitched battles in places
The army has been deployed in India's Rajasthan state after 14 people were killed in violent clashes over the government's affirmative action plans.

Police fired on protesters from the nomadic Gujjar tribe who had blocked a key highway near Delhi on Tuesday.

At least two of those killed are believed to be policemen.

The Gujjars are demanding that they be included in an affirmative action quota which would give them access to government jobs and other benefits.

Villagers in Peepalikheda, where some of the clashes took place, are still refusing to release the bodies of six people said to have died in the firing, and are demanding a meeting with government officials.

Soldiers have been deployed to maintain order in Dausa district and the town of Bundi, where some of the worst violence has taken place.

The police are stopping vehicles on the key national highway near Bharatpur, fearing fresh trouble on the route.

Influential

The BBC's Narayan Bareth in the state capital, Jaipur, says that there have been reports of protests by Gujjars spreading to other parts of the state.

The state administration held an emergency meeting on Tuesday night to discuss the problem.

"Those who break the law will not be tolerated.. The Gujjar-dominated protest in these areas is taking the shape of an organised movement," Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia told reporters.

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Police said they opened fire after tens of thousands of Gujjar protesters turned violent on Tuesday. Protesters said police shot at unarmed crowds.

The Gujjars began their action on Monday night, blocking the highway which connects the city of Jaipur with the tourist destination of Agra where the Taj Mahal is located.

A local official told reporters that protesters set fire to two police stations and two jeeps in the Jhalawar area.

In a separate incident, a mob cut off the hands of one policeman and the leg of another, according to Rajasthan interior minister Gulab Chand Kataria.

A Gujjar community leader, Avinash Badana, told India's state-run Doordarshan channel that the police had fired on "unarmed people".

Cynical move

The Gujjars are a large and politically-influential nomadic tribe spread across north India.

Students' protest in Delhi (File photo)
The issue of affirmative action is a sensitive one in India

They are demanding that they be categorised as an official tribe so that they may benefit from affirmative action quotas which will give them access to government jobs as well as places in state-supported schools and colleges.

The issue of affirmative action is a sensitive one in India, with many poor communities arguing that it is the only way millions of under-privileged people can benefit from India's economic boom.

But those opposed to it say it is a cynical move by politicians to gain more votes from politically influential communities who make up a large percentage of the country's population.


SEE ALSO
Despair of the discriminated Dalits
05 Dec 06 |  South Asia
India's colleges confront quotas
25 Aug 06 |  South Asia
Indian court upholds caste quotas
19 Oct 06 |  South Asia
Rise of the untouchables
20 Feb 02 |  South Asia

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