Hardik Patel detained by Gujarat police ahead of symbolic hunger strike
The fast was seen as Hardik Patel’s attempt to revive the agitation demanding reservation benefits in government jobs and college admission to Patidars.india Updated: Aug 19, 2018 21:47 IST
Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel and his supporters were detained by the Gujarat police on Sunday ahead of their symbolic hunger strike in Ahmedabad’s Nikol area, police said.
Incidents of stone pelting and road blockade were also reported in Surat hours after Hardik was taken into custody. Surat police said they had detained 30 people in connection with the violence.
Hardik (26) had announced to a day-long fast for today after his plea to allot an open plot in Nikol to hold a protest from August 25 did not evoke any response from the administration. Hardik had last month announced that he would not eat until his two demands – OBC status to Patidars and farm loan waiver – are met.
The Crime Branch registered an FIR against Hardik and eight others under sections 143 (Unlawful assembly) and 186 (Obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions) of the IPC, said crime branch DCP Deepan Bhadran. He was later released on bail.
The fast is being seen as Patel’s attempt to revive the agitation for reservation benefits in government jobs and college admission to Patidars. Otherwise a staunch supporter of the BJP, a section of the influential Patidars has been at loggerheads with the state government, resulting in electoral losses to the party in the 2015 local body and 2017 assembly elections.
In the run up to both the elections, Patel and his supporters had declared their support for the Congress.
Minutes before his detention, Patel told reporters, “Is observing fast a crime? Why is the BJP so nervous that hundreds of policemen have been sent to my home and several of my supporters have been detained? All that we want is permission to observe fast for the welfare of our community and farmers.”
In August 2015, the Gujarat government had allotted the huge GMDC ground in Ahmedabad to Hardik and his outfitm the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), to organise a rally. This first state-level gathering of the community ended in violent clashes between protestors and police, resulting in the death of 13 men and causing Rs 44 crore damage to the public property.
Following violent protests, the government filed two sedition charges against Patel. He is currently out on bail. He has also been convicted and given two years sentence for rioting in Mehsana that marked the beginning of the agitation in 2015.
On Sunday, a minor scuffle between the police and Patel’s body guards was reported at the time of his arrest. He was arrested soon after he left his home on SG Highway to reach Nikol.
“Hardik and his supporters were detained as they started gathering for the event for which permission was not given,” said a senior police officer. The police team then took him to the crime branch office in Ahmedabad.
“What kind of democracy is this? What can be said if a person is not allowed to protest peacefully,” said Congress MLA Lalit Vasoya, a former member of PAAS.
(With PTI inputs)
First Published: Aug 19, 2018 15:13 IST