After two days of caste-related riots that left eight people dead in the Indian state of Gujarat, calm is slowly returning. However, a curfew remains in place and the Internet has been blocked in some areas. And many residents are furious.
Protests began in Ahmedabad, with members of the Patel caste [the caste system is a system of social stratification and impacts people’s occupations] demanding quotas in public universities and in government jobs. The influential Patels, a caste that also own a lot of the region’s land and diamond businesses, are not among the Indian castes considered as being disadvantaged, which benefit from quotas (also known in India as “reservations”.)
A Patel rally held on Tuesday evening quickly degenerated into clashes with the police after the protest movement’s leader Hardik Patel was arrested. Rioting quickly spread to other towns in the state, and dozens of police stations and vehicles were set ablaze. Hardik Patel was freed later in the night, but clashes continued into Wednesday, when government forces were brought in and a curfew installed. Parts of Ahmedabad still have limited Internet access, in an effort the authorities say is meant to stop incendiary messages from spreading via social media.