AHMEDABAF: 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 toretreat. 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. Police said they will order inquiry into the lathicharge at the GMDC ground. Joint commissioner of police R R Bhagat said authorities will take action against the policemen involved in it.
"We will inquire into the matter and take action against all the policemen involved in it," Bhagat said.
When asked whether the police were ordered by the state government to carry out the action, Bhagat said, "No such orders were given."
As tension mounted, the Chief Minister tonight appealed for calm. "My sincere appeal to the people of Gujarat to maintain peace and not to indulge in activities disrupting law & order across the state."
"I urge people to refrain from spreading & believing any rumours & support state administration in maintaining peace & harmony across Gujarat," she tweeted.
Earlier in the day, addressing a massive rally organised over the demand of inclusion of Patel community in OBC category for reservations, Hardik, the convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, umbrella organisation of Patelgroups which is leading the agitation, warned the BJPgovernment that it would ignore the demand at its own peril.
After the rally Patel said he will sit on a hunger strike at the venue till the Chief Minister came and accepted their memorandum.
The numerically and economically strong Patel community of Gujarat converged here in large numbers since morning for the rally, which brought the city to a grinding halt.
The `Maha Kranti' rally was held after a month-long agitation. "If you do not give our right (reservation), we will snatch it. Whoever talks of interests of Patels will rule over Patels," Hardik told the gathering.
"In 1985 we had uprooted Congress from Gujarat, todaythere is BJP. 2017 (state election year) is coming...lotus will not bloom in the mud, it will never bloom. If you talk about our interests then only we will nurture your lotus," he aid.
Patels are unrelenting even though the Chief Minister has expressed inability to include the community in the OBC category, citing the Supreme Court judgements. "Some parties say you do not know about the Supreme Court guidelines (on 50 per cent cap on reservations), this cannot happen. If the Supreme Court can open at 3.30 in the morning or a terrorist (in Yakub Memon case), then why not for theyouth who are the future of this country?" Hardik said amidst cheers from the crowd.
"If the country's youth come on the streets to demand their rights and if they do not get those rights, some of them will become Naxalites, some of them will become terrorists," he said.
Earlier in the day, clashes between Patel community members and local residents were reported in Vadaj, Vastrapur, Nikol and Paldi areas of the city, as the protesters tried to enfore the bandh called by Hardik.
In Vadaj, when groups of Patel community members on scooters and bikes tried to enforce the bandh, local residents of this predominantly Dalit area resisted, leading to clashes
"Police lobbed a tear-gas shell and also lathi-charged the crowd when Patels and Dalits clashed," inspector D R Dhamal of the city control room said.