The ruling BJP is facing the biggest challenge as thepowerful Patels or Patidar community on protest seeking reservation…. reports Asian Lite News
A state-wide shutdown was observed in Gujarat on Wednesday, a day after a Patidar mega-rally was held in the state capital demanding reservations in education and jobs for the Patel community.
Hardik Patel, 22, convener of Patidaar Arakshan Andolan Samiti (PAAS) was detained and taken into custody by the police after he launched a sudden hunger strike at the GMDC Ground late Tuesday evening.
After being released, Patel appealed to his followers for peace and restraint, and also announced a state-wide shutdown on Wednesday.
Earlier, he had served a 48-hour ultimate to the state government to concede the PAAS demands following which he said agitation would be intensified.
As news of the police action on Patel spread, angry Patidars reacted violently in different parts of the state, attacking public and private properties, buses, vehicles, even as Chief Minister Anandiben Patel appealed for peace.
As per tentative counts, more than 100 buses have been damaged in different cities, while several private cars and motorcycles were set on fire in different parts of the state.
Tuesday’s mammoth mega-rally had over 1.20 million Patidars. It capped a 55-day long agitation across the state with scores of mini-rallies in different towns and cities for the main demands of the Patel community.
Former AAP leader and Swaraj Abhiyan founder Yogendra Yadav on Wednesday condemned the Gujarat Police crackdown on protesting Patels in Ahmedabad and said serious issues like reservation could not be settled through street protests.
“Who gets reservation can’t be settled through street protest. But police brutality against protesters is just not on. Nor is counter-violence,” Yadav tweeted early Wednesday.
“Reservation is a serious issue. It can be settled only through dialogue and discussion. Both the sides should act patiently,” he further said in a Facebook post.
A Kejriwal in Gujarat?
Hardik Patel, 22, said the demand for reservations was non-negotiable.
“We can also do a ‘Kejriwal’ here… We shall not allow anybody to fire bullets on our chests… If no reservations, then no Lotus (BJP symbol) in 2017,” declared the businessman Patel, invoking the name of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel while terming Patidars as his descendents.
Addressing the massive gathering of the community, Patel pointed out that the Patidars had proved what they were capable of doing if denied their rightful due — clearly hinting at the vote bank power of the estimated six million plus community in the state.
“A Patel student who secures 90 percent, fails to get admission in medical or engineering courses… But a reserved category student with just 45 percent marks walks in… If we are not given our dues, then we shall snatch it,” he warned to loud cheers of approval from the crowd.
Giving a 48-hour ultimatum to the government, Patel demanded that the chief minister should visit the venue and collect the PAAS memorandum, failing which he would launch an indefinite hunger strike on the dais.
“This is not a 100-metre race… this is a marathon… Our agitation will end the day the government shows it is willing to concede our demands,” Patel said.
To pre-empt the huge rally from coming to his office, Ahmedabad collector Rajkumar Beniwal rushed to the venue and accepted the PAAS memorandum before the rally started from GMDC Ground to the collectorate, around 10 km away.
Under mounting pressure for the past 55 days when the Patidar agitation was launched on July 6, with scores of smaller rallies across the state as a warm-up to Tuesday’s mega-revolution rally, the chief minister was closeted in an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the issue which has grave political implications.
This is the first time in over three decades that Gujarat has witnessed a caste reservation agitation and efforts are being made to ensure that the situation remains under control as even Chief Minister Anandiben Patel belongs to the Patidar community.
Top police officials, including city commissioner Shivanand Jha and others, personally supervised the security arrangements during the mega rally with instructions to the force to exercise ‘restraint’, even as Patel appealed to his followers to maintain peace at all costs.
Most parts of Gujarat and the entire Ahmedabad observed a shutdown of all business establishments, schools and colleges to facilitate the participation of Patidars in the rally.
Hundreds of thousands of Patidars had started swooping down on the city since Monday night, with the police and district officials making stringent security arrangements to prevent the general masses from being inconvenienced.
For the 10-km long march from GMDC to the collectorate, police made elaborate security arrangements, traffic diversions, put up CCTVs, tightening protection for the chief minister, her cabinet colleagues and important installations in the city.