The clashes between the Patel people and Indian security forces claimed at least eight lives in India's Gujarat state in the last two days as the army started to deploy soldiers to contain the riots.
According to a senior police office from the state capital Gandhinagar, six people and police officers have lost their lives and 18 people are critically injured. He also added that because of security reasons schools, businesses and private offices will not be open for the day and curfew would still be in place.
The region has a history of violence. In 2002, more than 1,000 people majority being Muslim lost their lives during clashes between locals. Current Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat at the time and received criticism for his reluctance to stop the violence.
Gujarat has been boiling since Tuesday and situation got worse on Wednesday when seven people died in widespread violence started by a cumulative movement for special accommodations for the Patel community.
Patels or Patidar community makes up almost 14 percent of the province’s population in the region. Patels are relatively affluent people, which own lands and businesses in the province. Patel community stated that they will continue to push for changes on policies, which they believe unfairly favour groups of people at the end of lower classes in the India’s cast system.
Protesters allegedly led by a young leader of the influential Patel clan on Tuesday demanded more government jobs and college places for the members of his community.
Twenty one-year-old activist Hardik Patel who led the crowd of half a million people rally on Tuesday in the city of Ahmedabad said, “We will not let the government suppress our demands. They can kill as many Patels as they want.” Patel was detained because of his involvement in the protests. His detention led crashes between police and his supporters throughout the Gujrat province eventually forcing authorities to release him.
Prime Minister Modi asked people to stop violence and appealed for peace and stated that violence serves no purpose. “We have always believed that the development of the state is possible only if we all walk together and stay united. It is my appeal to my brothers and sisters that the occasion calls for a single mantra – ‘peace’. Each and every issue can be resolved through talks,” India’s PM Modi said.
Tensions increased as fuming protestors burned down police stations, government and private vehicles and threw stones at security forces.
However, police forces accused of using excessive force, which allegedly resulted the death of five people in police firing. According to the officials, protestors torched more than 100 buses and many properties in Surat, Mehsana and Ahmedabad cities and the towns of Unja and Visnagar were damaged as well.
Daily life has been crippled in many parts of Gujarat. Schools, colleges, universities, banks, public transport and businesses were shutdown by the group. Mobile Internet access in Ahmedabad has been shutdown temporarily as well.
India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh has contacted Chief Minister Anandiben Patel assuring her of all the help they can provide. Government has deployed 5,000 paramilitary personnel and deployed 80 soldiers for each of the streets of Ahmedabad. The city looked abandoned, yet resulting social polarisation is unmistakably obvious.