AHMEDABAD: Over 200 Patel community leaders were today asked by the police to vacate a plot in the city where they had gathered to discuss the future course of action with regard to the ongoing agitation for OBC status.
A police officer said the permission was denied as they approached "us very late".
A community leader, while leaving the meeting venue, alleged that this was an attempt to muzzle their voice and said they are determined to hold the "reverse" Dandi march from Dandi to Ahmedabad later this week to scale up the agitation, even if they are not granted permission for it.
The meeting was called by the umbrella organisation of Patel community -- Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) -- this afternoon at Radhey Farm in Bopal area of the city. Earlier, the same meeting was planned at Patidar Hall in Bhadaj village, about 20 kms from here.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Himkar Singh, "They approached us very late. We can't give them permission within ten minutes of filing application. Looking at the current situation, we have to take steps to maintain law and order. Thus, we have asked them to vacate the place and leave."
Over 200 taluka and district-level leaders from across the state, who are associated with PAAS, were invited for the meeting here.
According to PAAS core committee member Chirag Patel, a close aide of the samiti's convener Hardik Patel who is spearheading the quota agitation in Gujarat, the police first forced them to change the venue from Bhadaj to Bopal.
"We had already booked the hall in Bhadaj yesterday. However, the hall owner called me in the night and urged me to change the venue. The owner told me that he has been pressurised by someone to deny us that venue. Thus, I booked Radhe Farm in Bopal today morning," said Chirag.
According to him, the meeting was supposed to take place at 1 PM today at the farm.
"At 10.30 AM, I gave an application to Bopal police station informing them about the meeting. Then suddenly at 12:30 PM, Mehul Patel, owner of Radhey Farm, called me and requested me to vacate the premises. He also told me that he might get into trouble if the meeting takes place," he said.
When the meeting was about to start at the farm, officials of Bopal police, along with State Reserve Police and about 10 personnel of Rapid Action Force(RAF), arrived at the farm and asked the leaders to vacate.
After getting the message from the police, which stayed outside the farm, the leaders decided to leave the farm.
During his interaction with media before leaving the farm, Chirag alleged that "some people" were trying to muzzle the voice of Patel community.
"Why can't we hold a meeting in democracy? Someone is trying hard to muzzle our voice. We have been forced out of two venues by police, and everyone knows who is behind such acts. But, we will not back down. Our agitation will continue despite such attempts to break it," Chiarg said.
He said that Hardik and PAAS were determined to hold the 'Patidar Anamat Kooch', a "reverse" Dandi March, even if the government does not give permission.
"The march from Dandi in south Gujarat till Ahmedabad is very much on the cards. It will be organised on September 5 or 6. We will apply for permission. But, we will hold the march even if permission is not given," he said.
Later, Chirag and other leaders headed to Umiya Campus area of the city to hold their meeting.