Riots broke out in Gujarat in West India Tuesday and today after 22-year-old Hardik Patel — the man responsible for a protest movement — was detained by police.
Patel’s movement is trying to change the reservation system, the world’s oldest affirmative action quota system.
The reservation system is intended to fill spaces in public jobs, publicly funded colleges, and elected assemblies for less dominant castes. The system was put in place to level the playing field. But Patel is demanding the Patidar community, or Patel caste — one of the most affluent and advantaged groups — be given “backwards” status, which would result in more government and college access.
On Tuesday, Patel had over half a million supporters come out to hear him speak of the injustices that face his caste.
“If you do not give us our right, we will snatch it,” Patel reportedly said to the large crowd. “Whoever will talk of Patel interests will rule over Patels.”
Later that night, Patel was detained by police after announcing a hunger strike and a 48-hour ultimatum.
Local outlets are reporting at least five dead and over 100 injured as Gujarat’s riots have turned violent after news broke of Patel’s detainment.
Patel supporters began throwing stones, destroying private and public property, and set fire to cars and three police stations.
The Gujarat government deployed army and paramilitary forces, and ordered the first curfew since 2002. Internet and mobile services have also been suspended to stop the circulation of campaign messages.
Schools and colleges remain closed for the second day.