Kicking off in Assam.
Now in Rajasthan. Group rights at any level below the nation are a bad idea, though I might make an exception for Welsh speakers and Native Americans.
JAIPUR, India, June 1 (Reuters) - A powerful Indian farming community seeking special government treatment clashed with a competing caste on Friday, killing four people and taking the death toll to 22 in four days of riots.
Tens of thousands of people have been stranded on highways or at railway stations in the western state of Rajasthan, a popular destination for foreign tourists, due to the wave of violent protests by ethnic Gujjars.
Millions of Gujjars, spread across north and western India, want to be declared a Scheduled Tribe (ST) which entitles them to job and college quotas.
But Meenas, who oppose the granting of tribal status to the Gujjars fearing they will lose their own quota slice, clashed on Friday in eastern Rajasthan, officials said.
At least four people were killed when Meenas tried to break a blockade by Gujjars, the first sign of a broader caste conflict erupting.
Hundreds of soldiers armed with automatic weapons have been patrolling highways and violence-hit towns. The main highway linking New Delhi to Agra, home to the Taj Mahal, has been hit by the Gujjar protests.
The vessel of Indian peace seems to be springing a leak at every seam - or has it always been like this since 1947, but poorly reported ? The well-meant efforts of Indian administrators to raise the poorest and lowest seem instead to have triggered a 'race to the bottom'.
In the past two decades, more castes and communities under Hinduism's ancient hierarchy have been demanding special quotas to garner government jobs and college places through affirmative action programmes.
The Meenas, a powerful community in Rajasthan, have cornered a large slice of the existing tribal quota for government jobs and college places in the state, and their leaders say they do not want the Gujjars to get reserved places at their cost.
"The strident demand among Gujjars in Rajasthan for ST status is a reflection of the seeming paradox of the notion of caste in today's India," the Times of India said in an editorial.
"The advent of reservations as an instrument to address economic and social inequities ... has promoted communities to go down the caste ladder to take advantages of assured quotas."
There are several groups that benefit from government affirmative action -- Scheduled Castes (SC), made up of "untouchables" and which is the lowest tier, and Scheduled Tribes (ST) made up of tribal groups are the next tier.
The third tier are Other Backward Classes (OBC), made up of a host of lower castes including Gujjars.
"Other backward classes" - I do love the way South Asian people call a spade a spade. We used to once. You'll often find that matters of race or culture are discussed far more openly by Asian writers or on, say, BBC Asian Network than on Radio 4 or 5. They haven't got that terrible white liberal guilt.
Gujjars wanted to be relegated to the ST group, where they believe competition is less fierce for jobs and college places.
Talks between Gujjars and state officials have failed and more negotiations are planned.
"We will not lift our blockade unless we get reservation," a Gujjar protester, holding a big stick, told NDTV television.
In 1990, dozens of upper-caste Hindu students burnt themselves to death to protest against a government plan to widen the quota for lower castes in government jobs.
What with the Sikh strikes and the traditional low-level stuff in places like West Bengal and Nagaland, India seems an interesting (in the Chinese curse sense) place at present. Don't get me started on Pakistan.
Wheeling and Dealing
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