Deadly caste violence erupts in Indian state of Maharashtra

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Deadly caste violence has erupted in the western state of Maharashtra in India for a third day following protests by a community demanding quotas for government jobs, officials said.

Protests have been growing across the western state since Monday, when a Maratha community activist jumped to his death from a bridge.

Another protester killed himself with poison on Tuesday, the same day a police officer died in clashes, reports said on Wednesday.

More than 30,000 police forces have been deployed across the region but the first trouble on Wednesday emerged in the city of Thane, near Mumbai.

“Two incidents of stone-pelting and arson were reported near Thane and we have prevented further incidents by deploying our teams,” Sukhada Narkar, a police spokesperson in Thane, told AFP.

Marathas staged demonstrations across Mumbai, closing many schools and colleges and delaying trains, officials added.

The community has been demanding for increased reserved jobs in the government and education for years.

A rally by hundreds of thousands of protesters paralysed Mumbai last year.

Maharashtra is one of several largely agricultural Indian states that have suffered disappointing rains and crop failures in recent years.

More than 2,500 farmers killed themselves in Maharashtra in 2016, according to official figures.

Campaigns by groups like the Marathas in Maharashtra and Patidars in Gujarat state – to support their demands for more government jobs – have claimed many lives in recent years.

A court in Gujarat on Wednesday sentenced a Patidar leader, Hardik Patel, to two years in prison for rioting and arson during unrest over caste-based reservation in 2015.

“If it is a sin to fight for social justice and rights, then I am a sinner,” tweeted a defiant Patel, who was granted bail soon after the conviction.

The 2015 rioting by Patidar members left about 10 people dead in the worst violence to hit Gujarat for more than a decade.

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