Mehsana remained on the boil for the second consecutive day on Monday even as the Gujarat bandh call by the Patidar groups evoked mixed response in the other parts of the state. Surat too remained tensed after a Patidar youth allegedly committed suicide and witnessed stray incidents of violence.
Soon after curfew was lifted in Mehsana, a mob attacked the house of state’s junior home minister Rajnikant Patel. In August last year too, his house was torched by a mob during the quota violence.
According to Gandhinagar Range IG Manoj Shashidhar, some miscreants threw burning rags inside the minister’s house which is not occupied currently.
Incidents of torching of vehicles were also reported from Surat, and stone-pelting was witnessed in Rajkot.
In view of the violence, Hemchandra-charya North Gujarat University at Patan cancelled all examinations scheduled for Monday.
Police have registered 18 FIRs across the state in connection with the violence on Sunday.
Interacting with the mediapersons, Mehsana SP Chaitnya Mandalik said: “The district remained peaceful, but some anti-social elements targeted the house (of Rajnikant Patel) and set it on fire.”
Police have lodged eight FIRs against dozens of people, but in one of the FIRs, they booked Sardar Patel Group chief Lalji Patel and 36 others for attempt to murder. Lalji Patel, who was leading the ‘Jail Bharo’ stir in Mehsana, had sustained injuries on his head during the clashes on Sunday.
Late in the evening a fresh clash between police and a mob was reported for Visnagar in Mehsana. The police had to use tear gas shells to disperse the mob targeting policemen deployed there for maintaining law and order.
In a bid to control spread of rumours, mobile data services remained suspended in top towns of the state like Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot and Mehsana. The ban has now been extended till 6 am Tuesday.
There was tension in Surat after 27-year-old Bhavin Khunt allegedly committed suicide. While Patidar leaders said Khunt consumed poison “out of shock” upon learning about the police action against the quota stir leaders in Mehsana, police said the reason for the suicide was yet to be ascertained. Hundreds of Patidars on Monday participated in the funeral procession of the youth.
However, there was a poor response to the bandh call in the city, which remained largely unaffected, besides a parked car and a bike being set on fire in Nana Varachha and Punagam areas, respectively. Number of diamond, powerloom and embroidery units in Patidar-dominated Varachha, Kapodara, Punagam, Sarthana and Kapodara areas remained closed in view of the bandh call.
In Vadodara, the bandh evoked mild response as streets remained deserted until noon, but markets open in the later half of the day.
In order to ensure safety of passengers, over 1,900 trips of the bus services were cancelled, leaving over 1 lakh commuters in a lurch. However, GSRTC buses functioned normally, except buses plying between Vadodara and Mehsana. Schools, colleges, MS University and other establishments functioned normally.
“It is peaceful here and we have only taken a precautionary measure. It is an administrative requirement. We have deployed the Quick Reponse Teams and other emergency contingencies across the city with a close watch on the Patidars,” said Commissioner of Police E Radhakrishana.
The bandh call given by the Patidar quota stir leaders drew a tame response in Saurashtra as markets and other establishments remained open, and visit of Chief Minister Anandiben Patel to Nani Parabdi village in Dhoraji taluka to attend a religious event also passed off without any untoward incident.
While addressing the gathering there, she said that those who dedicate themselves to social service should also be ready to face criticism. This was in apparent reference to the media flak she drew after her remark on Sunday that “such agitations (Jail Bharo Andolan) keep on going”.
The effect of the bandh call was negligible in Rajkot city. However, four companies of State Reserve Police Force remained deployed in the Patidar-dominated areas of Mavdi, Sant Kabir Road and Ranchhodnagar.
Junagadh, Bhavnagar, Gir-Somnath and Amreli districts too remained peaceful. No effect of the bandh was witnessed in Morbi, which was the epicentre of the quota stir in the Saurashtra region.
PAAS convener for Saurashtra Lalit Vasoya, however, claimed the bandh was a success. “The bandh call was meant for the Patidars only and we drew very good response from our community members. We admit the bandh was not effective in major cities like Rajkot and Bhavnagar, but we got support in towns like Lalpur and Jamjodhpur in Jamnagar district,” said Vasoya.