Patel quota stir: Govt relents, to help free jailed leaders

  • Hiral Dave, Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad
  • Updated: Apr 19, 2016 02:36 IST
Members of the Patidar community protest during their ‘Jail Bharo Andolan’, demanding release of their leader Hardik Patel. (PTI)

The house of Gujarat’s home minister was burnt down on Monday by Patidar protesters as the fresh quota movement by the community turned violent once again in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

However, a statewide bandh called by the organisation spearheading the movement failed to evoke much response.

Police said the house of the minister Rajnikant Patel was set ablaze. The house, located near a plot where Patidars had gathered on Sunday before marching towards Mehsana sub-jail to court arrest, was burnt by protesters in August too when the state had witnessed riots at a larger scale.

The government, meanwhile, held a meeting with senior Patel community leaders from religious organisations in Gandhinagar to discuss a charter of 27 demands submitted by them and assured of early release of jailed protestors.

“As per their demands, we will try to facilitate the release of Patidar agitators. We will also try to resolve the reservation through dialogue,” said government spokesperson and health minister Nitin Patel after the meeting.

The assurance assumes significance given Sunday’s jail bharo programme which was primarily aimed at immediate release of Patidar leader Hardik Patel and others.

Earlier on Monday, the bandh called by Sardar Patel Group (SPG) and PAAS to protest police lathicharge on Patidars in Mehsana on Sunday evoked little response even as the curfew imposed in the town was lifted in the morning.

In the afternoon, Lalji was put under police watch at a Mehsana hospital, where he is being treated for head injury. He and 50 others have been booked for conspiracy and attempt to murder. The police are likely to arrest him once he is discharged from hospital. The case has been registered in connection with an attack on a mamlatdar on Sunday.

Although examinations in some educational institutions – including the Hem Chandra University – were postponed, the bandh largely failed to disrupt the state’s academic scenario. Most business establishments and commercial ventures continued to function even in Patel-dominated pockets of Gujarat, such as Surat, Mehsana, Ahmedabad and Rajkot.

However, transport services across the state were crippled after the government stopped buses from plying on several routes – especially those passing through Patidar-dominated areas.

Mobile internet services also remained suspended in Ahmedabad, Mehsana, Surat and Rajot. The ban was lifted in Vadodara.

Nitin Patel blamed Congress supporters for instigating Patidar youths for the Sunday violence that left 30 injured, including SPG chief Lalji Patel. The clash occurred between Patidars and police when agitators during jail bharo andoland demanding immediate release of their 22-year-old leader Hardik Patel. He has been lodged in Lajpore Central Jail in Surat under sedition charge since October 2015.

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