The Centre rushed 5,000 paramilitary personnel to Gujarat after overnight violence rocked the state over an agitation demanding job reservation for the Patel community, forcing authorities to clamp curfew in several places and close educational institutions, officials said on Wednesday.
The violence erupted after the leader of the agitation, 22-year-old Hardik Patel, was briefly detained by Gujarat Police following a rally attended by nearly half-a-million people. Hardik has called a state-wide shutdown on Wednesday to press his demand.
Police said violent protesters attacked security personnel overnight with stones and sticks and burned government and private vehicles. No casualties were reported, police said.
Curfew was imposed in several places, including Mehsana city, parts of Surat city and Unjha and Visnagar towns, and educational institutions closed in the industrial district. Troopers of the State Reserve Police Force, BSF and Rapid Action Force were deployed in cities such as Ahmedabad and Mehsana.
Curfew imposed in parts of Gujarat after overnight violence
Cellphone communications were blocked in state capital Ahmedabad to stop rumours from spreading and gangs from coordinating their movements against law enforcement agencies.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh spoke to chief minister Anandiben Patel on Wednesday.
The Patels, also known as Patidars, make up around 12% of Gujarat’s population. Tuesday’s rally in Ahmedabad was called to press the community’s demand for inclusion in the other backward class (OBC) category.
The government, however, has rejected the Patels’ demand.
The stir turned violent after Hardik's detention and clashes were reported in several parts of Ahmedabad, where police used batons and teargas to disperse protestors and control the situation. Hardik was soon released on bail.
Fire department officials said at least four buses were torched by the mob.
“Violence has occurred at a number of places in Ahmedabad after Hardik Patel's arrest. Efforts are on to control the situation," additional commissioner of police Rajiv Ranjan Bhagat said.
Protesters from Patel Community set a van on fire in Surat, Gujarat pic.twitter.com/R1Da7aiDMo— ANI (@ANI_news) August 25, 2015
As tension mounted, chief minister Anandiben Patel tweeted: "My sincere appeal to the people of Gujarat to maintain peace and not to indulge in activities disrupting law & order across the state."
She added: "I urge people to refrain from spreading & believing any rumours & support state administration in maintaining peace & harmony across Gujarat."
In a mega show of strength to push its demand for inclusion in the OBC category for reservation, the Patel community – led by Hardik – warned the BJP government in Gujarat that it will face consequences in the 2017 assembly polls if the plea is not accepted.
Read | Hardik Patel: The 'New Modi' spells trouble for BJP in Gujarat
"If you do not give our right (reservation), we will snatch it. Whoever will talk of interest of Patels will rule over Patels," Hardik told the gathering.
"In 1985, we had uprooted Congress from Gujarat, today there is BJP. 2017 (the state election year) is coming...lotus will not bloom in the mud, it will never bloom. If you will talk about our interest, then only we will nurture your lotus," he said, warning the state government. The lotus is the BJP’s party symbol.
Hardik's aide and Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti spokesperson Chirag Patel alleged police beat up protesters during Tuesday's campaign, and even some children and women were at the receiving end.
"Police first switched off all the lights at GMDC ground and then took Hardik somewhere. Before that police lathi-charged and even beat up women and small children," Chirag alleged.
State health minister Nitin Patel, who heads a seven-member committee formed by the Gujarat government to listen to the demands of communities seeking job reservation quotas, said the Gujarat government did not have to say anything about the ultimatum.
"Let them sit on hunger strike. The Gujarat government does not have to do anything in that regard," he said.
In pics | Patel power rocks Ahmedabad
(With inputs from agencies)