MUMBAI, India – Low-caste groups protesting the desecration of their leader's statue burned train cars, buses and clashed with police at several places in western India on Thursday in violence that left at least two people dead and 40 injured, police said.
Authorities imposed curfews in three districts of western Maharashtra state Thursday, police said, to control rampaging protesters who had forced shops and businesses to shut down across the state, including in parts of Mumbai, India's financial and entertainment capital.
The violence came after a statue of B. R. Ambedkar, one of India's prominent freedom fighters and a leader of low-caste people, was damaged in the northern Indian city of Kanpur on Wednesday.
At least two people were killed Wednesday, said P.S. Pasricha, police chief of western Maharashtra state. As the violence escalated, 40 people were injured in clashes with police.
The Press Trust of India news agency, however, put the death toll at three and the number of injured at 60.
Millions of low-caste Hindus — also known as dalits or untouchables — revere Ambedkar, who fought against caste discrimination and was the architect of the Indian Constitution provision on affirmative action.
More than 1,500 preventive arrests were made Thursday, said state police official P.S. Pasricha.
"Buses and trains have been damaged in stone-throwing and arson. But the situation is now under control," Pasricha said.
Some schools also closed in Maharashtra.