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The Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel arrive in a special Indian Army plane to leave for Gujarat (Hindustan Times)

Thousands of Indian army troops have been deployed to riot-hit areas of Gujarat state following days of unrest that has led to at least seven deaths.

The Indian army could be seen patrolling areas hardest hit by the caste-related violence on Thursday, in what is being described by police as the worst to hit Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state in more than a decade.

The violence appears to have been triggered by the detention late Tuesday of the 22-year-old leader of a mass movement by the Patidar or Patel caste demanding preferential treatment for jobs and university places.

Director general of police PP Pande told the AFP news agency on Wednesday that three people had been killed in the main city of Ahmedabad, where an estimated half a million people gathered for a rally on Tuesday.

The violence later spread to other parts of the state and another two people were killed when police opened fire on rioters early Wednesday in Banaskantha district.  A sixth protester died in Mehsana district later Wednesday, also in police firing, the district superintendent J R Mothalia said. The police also said that the seventh victim was a police constable, who was beaten by a mob and later succumbed to his injuries in hospital.

(Al Jazeera)