Ahmedabad (PTI): Hardik Patel, the 22-year-old leader of the Patel community who today warned the BJP government in Gujarat that “lotus will not bloom” next time unless their demand for reservations was met, was tonight briefly detained and later released by police as violence erupted across the city.
Speaking at a mega rally of the community here earlier in the day, Hardik warned the state government that “lotus” (the BJP symbol) will not bloom in 2017 assembly elections if their demand of inclusion in the OBC quota was not met.
A large contingent of police stormed the GMDC ground here to disperse the crowd supporting Patel and three others who sat on a hunger strike after the massive rally, demanding that Chief Minister Anandiben Patel herself should come there and accept their memorandum.
Police took away Hardik and his supporters after lathi-charging his over 2,000 supporters. Mediapersons were also injured in the police action in which their equipment was damaged.
But the young leader’s detention late in the evening led to an immediate backlash, as protesters gathered in large numbers at various cross-roads and attacked the police, pelted stones and set on fire public properties including buses at two places.
Protesters also tried to torch the house of Gujarat minister of state of home Rajni Patel in Mehsana, police said, adding that the fire did not cause much damage.
Hardik was hastily released by the police seeing the mood of the community members.
He has emerged as the powerful face of a massive campaign of the affluent and influential Patels or Patedars who are demanding reservation in government jobs and colleges.
The Patels have for decades been loyal supporters of the BJP. Chief Minister Anandiben has said they cannot be added to the list of castes entitled to quotas because Gujarat has hit the cap of 50 per cent reservation ordered by the Supreme Court.
“The attack (by police) on us and media was political. The way police had beaten us, including the women and children present at the GMDC ground venue, was not right,” Hardik Patel told media after his release.
“They first asked the community to which people belong and then they brutalised our people. We want peace in Gujarat but this government does not want it. We will surely take some strong action,” Patel warned. At least two buses were set on fire in Ahmedabad by angry mob at two places, police said.
A bus was set on fire at Bhuyangdev in Ghatlodia area, which has a large Patel population, and another at Krushnanagar area of Naroda, said fire brigade officials.
“When our teams were trying to reach the spots, angry mob stopped us by pelting stones at our vehicles, forcing us to retreat. So we have returned without dousing fire from both places, ” said a control room official.
Deputy commissioner of police Sunil Joshi said angry people were taking to the street in large numbers. At least 15 cases of clashes and arson took place in various parts of the city, police said.
Police fired eight teargas shells to disperse a rampaging mob at CTM area. “A large number of police personnel have been deployed at CTM and near Rabari colony, Wonder Point and Jogeswari as Patel community members started throwing stones and vandalising shops,” the police station officer at CTM area said.
According to a senior police official deployed at CTM area, the mob started vandalising buses and also damaged bus pick-up points. Another clash was reported from Ghatlodia area here between Patel and Rabari communities where 10 people were injured. A mob of around 1,000 people tried to damage railway- tracks at GST crossing area in Ranip locality.