As the indefinite hunger strike of Patidar quota leader Hardik Patel entered eighth day on Saturday, his supporters forced activist Medha Patkar to return without meeting him, claiming her agitation against the Narmada dam project was seen as “anti farmer”. Hardik has been on an indefinite fast at his house on the outskirts of the city since August 25 to press for the demand of reservation for the Patidar community and a loan waiver for farmers in the state.
Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Patkar on Saturday arrived at Hardik’s house to meet him. However, workers of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (or PAAS, which Hardik leads) did not allow her to meet him. A press release from PAAS put out by spokesperson Brijesh Patel said: “Medha Patkar’s position has, from the beginning, been anti-Narmada, which delayed the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) and thus the farmers of Gujarat were deprived of Narmada water for a long time”.
Patkar told The Sunday Express that she had gone with two Gandhians “one was 83 and another 93 years old”, but were stopped . “I am not sure if Hardik was even told that we had come to meet him,” she said. The activist said that on Friday some supporters of Hardik had called her and said that he had stopped taking water. “I told them that he should not, because that would cause irreversible damage. So they handed over the phone to him and I told him that I would come tomorrow (Saturday)”.
She said that when she reached, some people stopped her and apologised for not letting her meet him. “They folded their hands and asked me to return, even as some commotion erupted from behind, which I feel was instigated.” She added that when she sat on a dharna in Kevadiya, “Hardik had once come to see me.”
PAAS claimed in its statement that Patkar’s claim that she was invited to come to the fast venue was “wrong”. “Our core members never invited her,” the statement said. The statement added that they had “offered water to Patkar, made her sit down and requested her to leave”. Later, Patkar told media that she was not anti-farmer.
“Even today people do not have proper understanding of the Narmada dam issue…we are raising voice in favour of farmers. But those who do not know this…(are opposing me). Thousands of Patidar farmers are fighting along with us because they have not got the full rehabilitation package,” the environmental activist said. Meanwhile, state Congress president Amit Chavda met Hardik. “Gujarat is the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel. Even the British could not suppress people’s voice, so the BJP has no capability to do that,” Chavda told reporters.
Extending support to Hardik’s indefinite fast, Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani tweeted: “Today Hardik Patel’s indefinite fast enters the eighth day. He even gave up water two days ago. He has put his life at risk. This time it is not only reservation for Patidars but also farm loan waiver. I salute this 24-year-old youth leader’s spirit. The government should conduct table talks today itself.”
Meanwhile, PAAS put out a health bulletin, stating that Hardik’s kidneys got infected. The bulletin also said that the acetone content in his body had increased, leading to the infection, which is progressing.
With inputs from PTI