MUMBAI - Violent protests by an Indian community demanding quotas for government jobs erupted in the western state of Maharashtra for a third day on Wednesday, officials said.

Protests have been growing across the state since Monday, when a Maratha community activist jumped to his death from a bridge. Another activist killed himself with poison on Tuesday, the same day a police officer died in clashes, reports said.

More than 30,000 police have been deployed across the region.

Trouble on Wednesday began near the city of Thane near Mumbai.

“Two incidents of stone-pelting and arson were reported near Thane and we have prevented further incidents by deploying our teams,” Sukhada Narkar, a police spokesperson in Thane, told AFP.

Marathas staged demonstrations across Mumbai, shutting many schools and colleges and delaying trains, officials added. The community has for years been pressing for more reserved jobs in the government and education. A rally by hundreds of thousands paralysed Mumbai last year.

Maharashtra is an important agricultural state but in recent years poor rains have led to crop failures. Many Marathas were among more than 2,500 farmers who committed suicide in the state in 2017, according to official figures.

Campaigns by groups like the Marathas in Maharashtra and Patidars in Gujarat state - to support their demands for more government jobs - have claimed many lives in recent years.

On Wednesday a court in Gujarat sentenced a firebrand Patidar leader to two years in prison for rioting and arson during an agitation over caste-based reservation in 2015.

“If it is a sin to fight for social justice and rights, then I am a sinner,” tweeted a defiant Hardik Patel, who was granted bail soon after the conviction.

The 2015 rioting by Patidar members left some 10 people dead in the worst violence to hit Gujarat for more than a decade.