As the economically and politically powerful Patel community warned of intensifying the agitation in Gujarat in its demand for reservation in government jobs and education, we reached out to members of the community in the city for their view on the matter.
In Indore, a majority of the Patels are businessmen, while some own vast swathes of farming land in the district. The community migrated to Indore some 65 years back and has played an effective role in setting up schools, colleges and charitable trusts.
While most of the people we spoke with expressed support for the agitation in Gujarat, they did not condone the sporadic incidences of violence emerging.
Mukesh Patel, 60, a local community leader, said Patels are fighting for their rights in Gujarat "but it is unfortunate that some unwanted elements turned it violent. We oppose this because this is against our temperament."
Ashwin Patel, 40, who deals in submersible pipes, justified the ongoing agitation in Gujarat. "Our children who score 80% are denied admission in medical, engineering colleges while those who score 55% become doctors, engineers and teachers. How can you run the country like this?" he said. "The agitation should have been peaceful but we didn't expect the BJP government to lathi-charge Patels."
Some, however, refused to comment due to political ramifications of aligning with a community.
Though Congress party leader Pankaj Sanghvi sympathised with the Patels' demand for reservation, he refused to comment on the agitation itself. Similarly, well known Malwi (dialect) poet and singer Narhari Patel said, "I will not comment on the issue at all."
Mukesh Patel shared how widespread and significant the community had become over the years. Traditionally, Patels of Gujarat have been farmers who became businessmen after moving to other states. Their surnames also changed - Patels in Maharashtra are known as Patils, while their surname became Nayudu in Andhra Pradesh. "Gurjars of Rajasthan are also Patels who migrated from Gujarat a century back," he said.