Four days of caste-related protests in the Indian state of Haryana have left 19 people dead and 10 million residents of neighboring Delhi without water.
At the heart of demonstrations is the Jat community, a historically more affluent group, which has launched demonstrations calling for the same economic benefits typically afforded those groups who occupy a lower position in Hinduism’s often-abstruse caste hierarchy. Discrimination based on caste is, in theory, illegal, though reports of atrocities against lower castes surface on a nearly daily basis. In an attempt to level the playing field, members of the perceived lower castes receive government quotas in schools and jobs—a process called reservation, which is similar to affirmative action in the U.S.
Over the weekend, protesters in Haryana, home to about 25 million people, of whom Jats make up about 30 percent, brought traffic in parts of the state to a halt. They eventually captured and damaged a canal that provides Delhi with 60 percent of its water supply. On Monday, Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s chief minister, declared the crisis had gotten dire.
We've completely run out of water. I appeal to the centre with folded hands to immediately intervene and get munak canal started in Haryana— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) February 22, 2016
The Indian army was eventually deployed and retook the canal on Monday. By evening, a deal had been reached to end the protests as the leaders of the Jat community secured a pledge for more civil jobs.