Thousands of irate street vendors attacked stores set up by Indian giant Reliance Industries in eastern India, saying the new nationwide chain threatened their livelihoods.
Some 5,000 vegetable sellers vandalized three Reliance Fresh stores in Ranchi in the first violence against the firm's plans to build a local version of US retail giant Wal-Mart, police said.
"If Reliance sells vegetables, then what do we do?" screamed fruit seller Lalmunia Devi as protesters hurled rocks at the store's facade, smashing windows.
The demonstrators invaded the stores, overturning display units and damaging electrical generators.
Paramilitary troops used batons to disperse the demonstrators who shouted slogans against Reliance, India's biggest private sector firm whose main business is petrochemicals.
Two dozen street vendors were injured when police tried to stop the protesters from attacking a fourth Reliance vegetable store, officials said.
"We had to use force to quell the mob, which was joined by people from a weekly bazaar and they began looting the stores," city police chief Richard Lakra said.
The vandalized facilities selling fresh vegetables were among the first to be set up in eastern India by Reliance, which launched its multi-billion-dollar foray into the retail trade last November.
Reliance's retail move comes as domestic and global firms seek to tap India's increasingly affluent middle class, estimated at 300 million, in what commentators have dubbed the "great Indian retail gold rush."
Reliance, which has set up five retail stores in the past six months in Ranchi, capital of the state of Jharkhand, declined to comment on the violence.
The city's 1.5 million residents mainly shop at weekly bazaars where farm produce is supplied by local villages, the protesters say.
"Millions of people earn their livelihoods by selling vegetables and other domestic products on the streets and if Reliance does the same, then we will starve," protester Devi said.
In the nearby Marxist-ruled state of West Bengal a powerful communist leader on Saturday threatened to launch similar protests against Reliance's expansion plans.
"The company could face a similar action if it went ahead with plans to open stores in West Bengal," said Naren Chatterjee, leader of the Forward Bloc, which is a partner of the Marxist-led left-wing government of the state.
"And if small traders are affected, then the reaction could turn violent," Chatterjee said.