Hardik Patel, the face of Patel agitation in Gujarat, and 59 others have been booked for alleged rioting at a BJP councilor’s house in the wee hours of Monday, police said.
Eleven people have been arrested so far in this connection, while a manhunt for Hardik, the convener of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, and other accused is on, they added.
According to police, Hardik, along with 59 others, had vandalised the house of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation councilor Paresh Patel in Vastral after trespassing into it around 2am.
The group also allegedly set on fire a BJP flag.
The alleged intruders were protesting the arrest of one of their associates Kunal Patel, who was held on Sunday for allegedly posting an objectionable message on social media.
The councilor in his FIR also claimed receiving death threat from the ‘rioters.’
A case under various sections pertaining to rioting, trespassing, criminal conspiracy and related crimes was registered against all the accused.
The Patel quota agitation leader, Hardik has already been booked in seven cases, including two sedition cases in Ahmedabad and Surat.
Hardik, who is currently out on bail, termed the latest case against him and his associates as “panic reaction” of the BJP at a time when speculation about an early elections in Gujarat is rife, particularly after party’s spectacular victory in Uttar Pradesh.
``Following its win in UP, when the BJP wants early elections in Gujarat, it will try to keep our volunteers inside jail. This is an act to break the community and agitation. The fresh case against Patidar youths and women leaders is baseless and false,’’ he said.
Since his return to Gujarat in January after 16 months, Hardik has been touring the state and addressing public meetings to mobilise the community against the ruling BJP.
Of the 16 months, he spent nine months in jail and six months in exile.
He warned there would be counter reaction to the police’s action.
In August 2015, during violent quota agitation, 13 Patidar youths were killed in police firing and public property worth Rs 44 crore was damaged.
Since July 2015, the Patidar youths are up in arms against the BJP-led government in the state demanding reservations in government jobs and educational institutions.
In the face of the agitation by the community, once regarded as the BJP’s vote bank, the partly lost rural and local body elections in 2015.
The party is now desperately trying to win back the community and weaken the agitation before the crucial assembly elections to be held later this year.