Curfew imposed in Gujarat after Hardik Patel called for state-wide bandh

Rally by Patels for quota brings Gujarat commercial hub to a halt

Curfew imposed in Gujarat after Hardik Patel called for state-wide bandh

The demand for OBC status and reservation by the Patels of Gujarat, who organised a mammoth “Maha Kranti Rally” in Ahmedabad on Tuesday, took a violent turn by late night.

Large scale reports of arson, burning of buses, attacks on police, houses of home minister and husband of chief minister as well as burning and stone pelting of various government offices and properties poured in from across the state.

As a precautionary measure, the authorities imposed curfew  in Surat and Mehsana cities.

Many highways across the state, including National Highway connecting Delhi to Mumbai, too, were blocked. The trouble began as the news of arrest and eventual release of the 22-year-old Patel leader and organiser of the rally, Hardik Patel, in a late evening action by police.  The police used lathicharge and water canon to evict the agitators late in the evening.

As soon as the news of Hardik’s arrest came in, large number of people across cities came out with sticks and pipes shouting slogans “Jai Sardar” and venting their anger on public property and police.

The situation remained tense with chief minister issuing an apology for the incidents during the day and assuring detailed probe. Hardik, too, released a message after his release on social media, asking his supporters to remain calm and not get entrapped by what he called certain motivated political elements.

Earlier in the day, over a million Patels from across the state gathered in Ahmedabad for a rally that brought the commercial capital of Gujarat to a complete standstill.

Shouting slogans “Jai Sardar, Jai Patidaar”, they filled roads of Ahmedabad since early morning. “We are not just 1.8 crore Patels in Gujarat, we are 27 crore across India. We have 117 Patidaar MPs in Parliament. Nitish is ours and so is Chandrababu Naidu,” Hardik said in his 90-minute speech.

“Only if our rights are safeguarded, we will let the lotus (BJP's party symbol) in 2017 (year Gujarat Assembly polls are slated for). Else, the lotus will never bloom again,” he said, daring the state government.

He went on to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious “Statue of Unity” project of erecting a 182-metre high idol of Sardar Patel in Gujarat. “You want a 182-metre statue of Sardar for political reasons but peep into your heart and see if you have even two thoughts of Sardar?” he said.

Hardik ended his speech by announcing that he and four of his supporters would sit on a fast and gave a 48-hour ultimatum to the chief minister Anandiben to come to the venue and accept memorandum from Patels, which was turned down by the government. All schools across the city of Ahmedabad have been asked to remain shut due to tense situation.

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