NEW DELHI: An uneasy calm hung over Gujarat on Thursday as protesters led by Hardik Patel vowed to continue their demonstrations even as the army deployed to control the situation conducted flag march in violence-hit areas in Ahmadabad, Surat and Mehsana.
The situation in Ahmedabad, where areas under nine police stations are still under curfew, was peaceful during the day but by 7 pm, the control room was abuzz with frantic phone calls as many residents reported disturbance by miscreants.
DCP Sunil Joshi, in charge of the Ahmedabad police control room told Express over phone that the situation was under control, but there is a sense of unease and nervousness in some areas.
“We are receiving several emergency calls since 7 pm about miscreants gathering in certain areas still under curfew. There was no violent incident during the day but I can confirm that four deaths have been recorded from Ahmedabad,” Joshi said. Though there was no escalation in violence in Surat, police commissioner Rakesh Asthana said the army was called in for flag march to put all the residents at ease. “We lifted curfew around 8 am from two police stations that were affected by the protests,” Asthana told Express.
But, Hardik Patel, who is in the centre of the reservation war in Gujarat called upon the farmers of Patel community to choke the supply of vegetables and milk to the cities in Gujarat to intensify their stir for reservation under OBC quota.
Hardik, who demanded ex-gratia of `35 lakh each for the families of eight people who allegedly died after police firing, was missing in action Thursday morning for a few hours but was back to waiting TV cameras in the afternoon.
“If ex-gratia is not given to victims' family, we will ask farmers to stop supplying milk, vegetables, water and essential commodities to the cities. Our peaceful protest will continue,” Patel warned the State government.
He compared the police action against protesters to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919 and said that it was the State which instigated violence during a peaceful protest as they did not want the Patel community demanding reservation to make the headlines of the newspapers.
“We live peacefully, but if they (police) will attack us, we will never leave them. This agitation ran for 55 days peacefully but they created trouble at GMDC ground rally and targeted our youth,” Hardik Patel said.
An officer said Patel’s agitation also rocked the Gujarat Assembly, with Congress members criticising government for pushing the State into a complete lawlessness. He said congress members were suspended for a day by the speaker.