The Anandiben Patel government in Gujarat on Sunday decided to bury the hatchet with leaders of the Patel community fighting for reservation for several months, and not press for legal proceedings against them.
Twenty-three-old Hardik Patel, leader of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) which has been agitating for reservation under the Other Backward Classes category, and his close associates, however, would continue to face sedition charges.
The initiative to bridge the gap between the government and the Patels was taken by several leaders of religious trusts of the community.
The religious trusts’ leaders held a series of meetings with ministers and later with the chief minister, following which the government decided not to oppose bail applications of the detained PAAS leaders in various courts.
Minister Nitin Patel said the government has directed principal secretary in the chief minister’s office, K Kailashnathan, to study the 287 cases filed against PAAS leaders and find a way to withdraw the cases wherever feasible, except those related to sedition charges.
The government promised the Patel leaders that it would try to find ways to ensure that Hardik Patel and the other leaders were released on bail, official sources said.
Hardik Patel and at least six PAAS leaders are in custody since October with the government opposing their every move in various courts, including the Supreme Court.
Offering an olive branch to the agitating Patels, the government also agreed to meet medical expenses of all those injured in police firings and baton charges during the reservation stir from the chief minister’s relief fund.
Compensation would also be paid to family members of those killed in the police firing following protests after Hardik Patel was arrested in the August 25 rally in Ahmedabad.
The family members of Mayur Patel, who was hit by a bullet on August 25 and who succumbed to his injuries after 122 days in hospital, received a cheque of over Rs 24 lakh. This amount included the more than Rs 14 lakh his family had spent towards his treatment.
“This assistance is being given from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund as a special case. Today, we gave Rs 14.6 lakh to Mayur’s relatives. Since they were given Rs 9 lakh earlier, we gave a total of Rs 23.6 lakh to his family in order to ease their financial burden,” Nitin Patel told reporters.
The minster also assured family members of Pratik Patel, who was paralysed after being shot at during the violence, that the government would bear all medical expenses. “He is under treatment and we will bear all the cost,” Patel said.
Meanwhile, Reshma Patel and Pankaj Patel, who were on an indefinite fast for the last three weeks demanding immediate release of Hardik Patel and other PAAS leaders, broke their fast on Sunday, following requests by the state government.
The Patel leaders, however, decided to continue token relay fasts at various district headquarters till Hardik Patel and other leaders were actually released.