Hardik Patel begins indefinite hunger strike at home, police prevent supporters from gathering
Denied permission by the Gujarat government to stage his hunger strike in Ahmedabad or Gandhinagar, Patidar quota stir leader Hardik Patel on Saturday began his indefinite fast at his Green Wood Resort residence, located on the highway connecting the twin cities.
In the presence of a few supporters who managed to reach his residence despite police efforts to prevent them, the 25-year-old vowed not to eat until his two demands – other backward class (OBC) status to Patidars and loan waiver for farmers – are met.
The white cap donned by Patel and his supporters had slogans of ‘Jai Sardar Jai Patidar’ on one side and `Inquilab Zindabad’ on the other. The verandah, which was converted into the fast venue, had pictures of two leaders, representing two very different ideologies, Mahatma Gandhi and Bhagat Singh.
Rakshabandhan festivities began a day earlier for Patel with female supporters present at the venue taking turns to tie him Rakhis.
Like the August 25, 2015 Patidars rally in Ahmedabad, this event too began with intense rhetoric by Patel, loaded with warnings to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). But police and administration had taken adequate precautionary steps to ensure that the protest does not turn violent like three years back, when 14 youths were killed and public property worth Rs 44 crore damaged.
“I appeal all the political parties and leaders to raise voice against British-type rule of the BJP government. A Jallianwala Bagh like situation has been created outside my home. Even supply of essentials like milk and water has been stopped. Some 16,000 supporters, who had started for here, have been detained across the state’’, Patel said who began his fast at 3 pm.
However, soon after the above statements were made, he hosted lunch for a couple of hundred people at noon.
The BJP government was quick to respond. Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, who along with Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, was at Kevadiya Colony to oversee progress on the Sardar Patel statue, which will be the world’s tallest at 182 metre, told media: “It is a Congress-sponsored so-called agitation. Ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress wants to divide the community’’
.The administration dismissed Patel’s allegations of cracking down on his supporters.
Additional director general of police RB Brahmbhatt, said: “Not 16000, only 158 persons across Gujarat have been detained.”
Recalling that Patel was allowed to take out a rally in 2015 on condition of maintaining peace “but it had turned extremely violent”, he said the Patidar leader was denied permission this time to keep law and order situation under control.
There was heavy deployment of police in sensitive cities including Ahmedabad, Surat and Rajkot. The BRTS services in Patidar-dominated areas of Surat was discontinued for a day to prevent torching of public vehicles as seen in past three years since launch of the agitation demanding reservation benefits.
Meanwhile, police were checking every vehicle and identity of passengers taking the approach road connecting Patel’s home to the highway, in a bid to prevent his supporters from reaching there.
Three Congress MLAs- Lalit Vasoya, Lalit Kagathara and Kirit Patel- were also stopped and not allowed to reach Patel’s home. Some Ahmedabad Municipal Congress councillors like Badruddin Shaikh however managed to reach the spot.
The Congress has sought an appointment with Gujarat governor OP Kohli to make representation. “We are likely to meet the governor. We would make the representation that Hardik and his supporters should be allowed to protest,” said Vasoya.