Indian tribal clashes kill dozens
Tuesday, 27 May 2008

The protests caused disruption to road and rail routesAt least 36 people have died in two days of clashes between security forces and ethnic Gujjar protesters in the Indian state of Rajasthan, police say, report agencies.

Police opened fire on demonstrators on Friday in Bharatpur district killing at least 15. One policeman also died.

Unrest continued on Saturday in Sikandra as police stations were torched and 20 more people were killed.

The Gujjars want official recognition to make them eligible for preferential recruitment in jobs and education.

Road and rail traffic between the Indian capital, Delhi, and the city of Jaipur has been affected.

$60m package

The state government has now called for negotiations with the Gujjars, but there has so far been no response.

Similar protests almost a year ago resulted in the death of 23 people.

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 all 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 country's economic growth.

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

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