Hardik Patel, the leader of the campaign demanding reservations for the Patidar community, was arrested in Surat for defying prohibitory orders clamped ahead of his “Ekta March”, triggering protests and sporadic incidents of violence in Gujarat.
Patel was freed on bail by a court soon after his arrest on Saturday night. Tight security was put in place in all major cities and towns, and the state government suspended mobile internet services in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot for periods ranging from 24 hours – till Sunday afternoon – to one week.
The arrest led to sporadic incidents of violence and protests, though they were not of the scale and intensity of the demonstrations witnessed last month, when widespread strife lead to the death of 10 people.
Police used batons and teargas to break up the protests against Patel’s detention. Protests, road blocks and women supporters and youngsters coming out in large numbers were witnessed in Surat, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Navsari, Mehsana, Jamnagar, Botad and other towns and villages.
Patel and 35 of his supporters detained in Varachha area of Surat were produced before a magistrate, who gave them bail on a personal bond of Rs 1,000 each. He was released late on Saturday night.
An FIR was filed against Patel for violating prohibitory orders. “We have arrested Hardik Patel. An FIR was registered against him…for violation of prohibitory orders,” said Surat’s police commissioner Rakesh Asthana.
Following the arrest, there were protests in Rabari Colony and Bapunagar area of Ahmedabad , where a mob tried to block National Highway 8.
“A few incidents of sporadic violence were reported in Ramol, Nikol and Bapunagar area but those were not serious in the nature," said deputy commissioner of police Sweta Shrimali.
At Ramol area of Ahmedabad, members of the Patel and Rabari communities clashed. Police fired two rounds of teargas to disperse the crowds, said inspector PI Solanki.
“Women of the Patel community were protesting against Hardik's detention. Despite numerous appeals for peace, they first hurled stones at us and then indulged in heated arguments with youths of the Rabari community, which soon resulted in a clash between the two communities," he said.
At Kamrej and Kapodara areas of Surat, police and members of the public scuffled though nobody was hurt.
In Botad town of Saurashtra region and in Surat city, state transport buses were vandalised, said Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation president Pankaj Kumar. Buses heading to Junagadh, Rajkot and Surat districts were halted for some time to avoid damage, he said.
Patel community members also blocked roads in Navasari, Morbi, Mehsana, Amreli and Jamnagar districts.
Chief minister Anandiben Patel said her government had not done any injustice to any community. She warned of appropriate action if anybody took the law into their hands.
“The development of Gujarat became possible because the state has been witnessing social peace from 2001," she said.
Hardik Patel, convenor of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, had earlier accused the government of muzzling his community. He had kept his plans about the Ekta Yatra secret till yesterday after being denied permission to march from Dandi to Ahmedabad.
A group opposed to Patel, the OBC Ekta Manch, threatened to organize a “Pratikar Rally” to protest against the reservations sought by the Patidars. However, authorities refused permission to the Manch to hold its rally.
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