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From no venue to section 144, Hardik Patel faces many roadblocks for quota protest

Hardik Patel has announced an indefinite hunger strike from August 25 to press the demand of reservations for the Patidar community.

india Updated: Aug 21, 2018 17:28 IST
Hiral Dave
Hiral Dave
Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad
Hardik Patel,Hunger strike,Patidar quota
Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel interact with media, in Ahmedabad on July 25.(PTI Photo)

Patidar reservation leader Hardik Patel’s attempt to revive his three-year-old agitation through an indefinite hunger strike from August 25 has hit a series of hurdles.

Various steps taken by the state government in the last couple of days have stacked odds against what he called “August Kranti” to press for two demands: reservation benefits in college admissions and government jobs for his Patidar community and loan waiver for farmers.

Not only did Patel fail to get permission to use an open ground as the venue for the fast, but he also faces the challenge of hosting even a small gathering as prohibitory orders, banning assembly of more than four people, under Criminal Procedure Code’s section 144 have been imposed in the city till September 2.

Patel’s efforts to shift the fast venue to a sprawling farmhouse on SG Highway, his current address, have also fallen flat as the landlord has denied him permission to hold any such event on his premises.

Besides legal roadblocks, the firebrand young leader is also faced with the challenge of gathering resources as his oldest and most trusted aide Alpesh Kathiria will be in police custody till August 24 following his arrest in a two-year-old sedition case on Monday by the Ahmedabad police.

“The BJP government is leaving no stone unturned to derail my plans. Kathiria was accused in the sedition case along with me and five others. While we were arrested and jailed, he was not. The police arrested him now so that we do not go on fast,” said Patel.

The Ahmedabad crime branch had on Monday sought Kathiria’s 14-day remand arguing that he was absconding all the while and that police need to find out the financial source of the violent agitation by Patel and his aides.

At the beginning of the agitation on August 25, 2015 (exactly three years back), the government had given the Patidars the biggest open plot of Ahmedabad to hold a day-long rally. It ended in violent clashes with police, leaving 13 youths dead and damaging public property worth Rs 44 crore, while making then 23-year-old Hardik face of the agitation.

Subsequently, police filed a sedition case against Patel and his aides.

On his future course of action, Patel said: “Now, I have sought permission to hold the programme in Gandhinagar. If that too will be denied, then I will go on fast at my home and the government cannot prevent me from doing so.”

His Patidar Ananmat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) had originally planned to hold the event in Ahmedabad’s Nikol area, considered to be Patel’s stronghold.

“The open ground for which permission was sought has been now declared free parking plot. This is a cynical plan to stop us’’, said PAAS spokesperson Nikhil Savani. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation authorities, however, maintained that as many as 44 open grounds across the city have been declared parking plots as part of ongoing drive addressing traffic snarls and removing encroachments.

The Congress has called the whole episode a violation of basic right to protest, where as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has labelled Patel as the Congress agent.

“The government, in an undemocratic way, has been denying the right to protest to Hardik,” said Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi.

Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said: “The government has rolled out so many schemes for reserved and unreserved communities. I believe that Hardik now has been trying to put a protest just for the sake of it as he is compelled to do so being a Congress agent.”

The BJP had been calling Patel a Congress agent after the PAAS had supported the Congress in past two elections - the local body and assembly polls.

First Published: Aug 21, 2018 17:28 IST