Members of an Indian minority community will begin talks with local authorities on Monday about ending their sometimes violent protests over job quotas which have disrupted train services, both parties said.
Members of the Gujjar community are demanding that their place in the Indian caste system be downgraded so they can qualify for government jobs and university places reserved for such groups.
More than 40 people have been killed since the Gujjars renewed their protests last month in the western state of Rajasthan. Most of the dead are Gujjars shot by the police.
Government officials are to travel to the town of Bayana on Monday for a first round of talks with the protest leaders, said S.N. Thanvi, a senior official of Rajasthan government.
"We have agreed for final talks in Jaipur only if the first round talks prove to be fruitful," said K.S. Bainsla, a Gujjar leader, who, with his loose red turban and white cotton robes, has come to be the face of the protests.
India reserves about half of all government jobs and seats in state colleges for people born into lower castes and tribal groups, who tend to be poorer than other Indians.
The affirmative action scheme has been criticised for accentuating caste identities in India, where discrimination on caste is banned by the constitution.
The quota system masks India's failure to provide good, universal education and social equality, some critics say.
A year ago, Gujjars fought police and members of another caste that already qualifies for job quotas. At least 25 people died in the clashes.
After these protests, a state government committee decided that Gujjars do not deserve to be downgraded, but added it would spend 2.8 billion rupees ($67 million) improving schools, clinics, roads and other infrastructure in Gujjar areas.
Gujjar leaders rejected this.
For the last two weeks, they have blocked roads and railways and torched government vehicles. Some Gujjars also briefly halted traffic on highways into New Delhi last month.
Soldiers and policemen were patrolling in streets of many districts of Rajasthan to control violence on Monday, officials said.
Dozens of long-distance trains continued to be cancelled or diverted due to the continuing protests.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 10 Haziran 2008, 12:03