Tension mounted in Gujarat on Wednesday after six people were killed in fresh violence during a day-long shutdown triggered by a snowballing movement for reservation for the Patel community as Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for calm in the state.
As violence erupted a day after a mega-rally called by a Patel outfit spearheading the stir, cellphone communications were blocked in Ahmedabad to stop both rumours from spreading and gangs from coordinating their movements.
Hardik Patel, who leapt into the limelight after Tuesday’s massive rally, rejected suggestions that the protesters started the violence last night, saying police were trying to disrupt the movement at the behest of the political establishment.
“They (police) are indulging in violence. Police are beating (up) mothers, sisters and small children. They are doing it the same way it is done in UP and Bihar,” said Hardik Patel, spearheading the agitation under the banner of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS).
“I haven’t said anything provocative. We will continue our movement on the path of non-violence. We are urging to restore peace. If needed, strikes and fast will happen everywhere.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed for peace in his home state and said violence did not benefit anybody. “We can reach a solution through negotiations,” Modi said in Gujarati in his first reaction to the stir that turned violent after the leader of the community Hardik Patel was briefly detained by police on Tuesday.
The appeal came after three people were killed in clashes between police and violent protesters who torched police stations, burnt government and private vehicles and pelted stones at security personnel following Hardik Patel’s brief detention late on Tuesday. As many as 100 buses were torched and property damaged in the violence in Ahmedabad, Surat and Mehsana cities and the towns of Unjha and Visnagar, officials said.
Normal life was paralysed in several parts of Gujarat as schools, colleges, business establishments including banks and public transport remained closed in view of the shutdown. About 5,000 personnel of Rapid Action Force, CRPF and BSF were sent to assist the administration maintain law and order, especially in curfew-bound areas.
The Patidars, or the Patel community, are a largely wealthy business community that has been a driving force in India’s economy, dominating trades such as diamonds, textiles and agro businesses. The Patels, who wield wide political power in Gujarat, are divided into three sub-castes — the Leuvas, the Kadavas and a much smaller group Anjanas. Together, the community accounts for 12-15% of Gujarat’s 63 million people.
The Patel community has warned the BJP government in Gujarat that it will face consequences in the 2017 assembly polls if the plea is not accepted. The Gujarat government had earlier rejected the demand. Under a Supreme Court ruling, reservations cannot cross the 50% mark in any state which Gujarat has already reached.
“If you do not give our right, we will snatch it,” Hardik told the rally on Tuesday.
Curfew was also imposed in parts of Surat city and Mehsana, in Unjha and Vishnagar town of Mehsana district on Tuesday night.
In a mega show of strength, the Patel community has warned the BJP government in Gujarat that it will face consequences in 2017 assembly polls if the plea is not accepted.
“If you do not give our right (reservation), we will snatch it. Whoever will talk of interest of Patels will rule over Patels,” Hardik told the gathering on Tuesday.
The Gujarat government had earlier rejected the demand
Under a Supreme Court ruling, reservations cannot cross the 50 per cent mark in any state which Gujarat has already reached.
SOURCE: HINDUSTAN TIMES
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