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Page last updated at 14:41 GMT, Friday, 23 May 2008 15:41 UK

Five dead in India tribal clash

By Jyotsna Singh
BBC News, Delhi

Gujjar  girl
The Gujjars say they are discriminated against

Five people have been killed in a clash between the police and angry tribal protesters in the north-western Indian state of Rajasthan.

The Gujjar tribesmen have been demanding better benefits and job opportunities under the government's affirmative action policy.

Nearly 3,000 Gujjar protesters blocked the Delhi-Mumbai (Bombay) highway disrupting rail and road traffic.

Police said they opened fire to control an angry crowd in Bharatpur district.

Disadvantaged

They say that four protesters were killed near the town of Bayana.

According to the police the crowd threw stones at the police first, killing a police constable.

They responded by opening fire and at least 20 people were injured in addition to those killed.

Protesters last year in the village of Aya Nagar, on the outskirts of Delhi
Gujjars have taken to the streets frequently in recent months

There is tension in the area as the protesters are refusing to remove the bodies from the scene of the clash.

Over the last year Gujjars have carried out a series of protests that have turned violent.

Twenty-three people were killed in similar violence in May last year.

Last week the state government announced a financial package for Gujjars worth more than $60m.

But they rejected the package, saying they must be included in the official list of the disadvantaged tribal groups, which gives them access to government jobs and other benefits.

Nearly half of federal and state governments jobs are reserved for the poor and disadvantaged groups.

The issue of affirmative action is a sensitive one in India with many poor communities arguing it is the only way they can benefit from the economic boom.

But those against the policy blame the politicians for using it as a tool to gain votes. State elections are due in Rajasthan later this year.


SEE ALSO
Why the Gujjars are so aggrieved
31 May 07 |  South Asia
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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