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Tribes in India Demand an End to Local Gender Quotas, Sparking Deadly Riots

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Government offices were set ablaze and two protesters killed by police in a remote part of Northeast India this week, as mobs of local tribesmen violently demanded that the government eliminate quotas ensuring women’s representation in local government.

Hundreds of troops were reportedly deployed Thursday to calm the streets of Kohima, capital of the Indian state of Nagaland, according to Indian broadcaster NDTV. A senior paramilitary officer was quoted Friday as saying the situation “is under control, the important locations have been taken care of.”

Violence erupted in at least two cities on Tuesday, when local elections were set to take place. At the center of the unrest is a new quota system reserving 33% of municipal seats for women, a provision that some locals believe has been unlawfully imposed by the Indian government.

At least two municipal buildings in Kohima were reportedly set on fire during the first day of protests, as mobs ransacked the capital burning cars and other property. Police also reportedly fired into a crowd of protesters in Dimapur, the largest city in Nagaland, fatally shooting two young men. The Nagaland Post reports that the two are being honored as “martyrs” who died to protect Naga values.

Protests continued on Thursday as the bodies of the two young men were taken through the streets of the capital. The mob demanded the resignation of the state’s highest executive and his cabinet, NDTV reports. Several columns of the Indian army and Assam Rifles, a pro-government paramilitary force, were deployed, and the Indian Express reports that a 7 p.m. curfew was imposed.

Reports are slow to emerge from the remote and mountainous state in India’s Northeast — a rugged assemblage of territories populated by tribal minority groups and mired in insurgency. Mobile Internet service has been indefinitely cut off in parts of the state, NDTV reports, while an ongoing bandh, or road blockade, has reportedly been repurposed as leverage for new demands, according to the Nagaland Post.

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