Clashes between police and villagers in India, about 14 people killed

Clashes between police and stone-throwing villagers who blocked two main highways in India left at least 14 people dead.

The death toll included two police officers while another two officers were missing and presumed dead, said Sudarshan Sethi, a district administrator.

Nearly 20,000 villagers blocked the roads to urge officials to classify the people as being on the lowest rung of India's complex social ladder so they could get government jobs reserved for such groups, said Madhukar Gupta, an administrator in Jaipur district.

Villagers surrounded police who tried to break up the protests in three villages, and the officers opened fire, killing 12 people, said V. S. Singh, a home ministry official in Jaipur, the capital of northwestern Rajasthan state.

Two police officers died after they were severely beaten by the protesters, Singh told reporters.

At least 80 people, including a dozen police officers, were injured in the clashes, said Singh.

Police fired in self-defense after villagers began throwing stones, said Kanhiya Lal, a police officer.

Six villagers and two police officers died in clashes in two villages in Rajasthan state, 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Jaipur, the state capital, Singh said.

The violence later spread to another village 180 kilometers (110 miles) northwest of Jaipur, where six more people were killed, said Sudarshan Sethi, a district administrator.

"Two police officers are missing and presumed dead," said Sethi.

State authorities have rushed the army and police reinforcements to prevent further violence in the area, Sethi said.

Violence has stopped with the army soldiers patrolling the troubled spots, but the situation was tense in the area, Singh said.

Thousands of cars, buses and trucks have been stranded on two main highways connecting Jaipur, the state capital, to New Delhi and Agra, a northern tourist city where the Taj Mahal is located.