A rally by the Patidar community seeking OBC status and benefits of reservation turned violent in Visnagar town of Mehsana district on Thursday.
Sources said that five journalists and a cameraman from Mehsana were injured. They were taken to Mehsana civil hospital for treatment.
The protesters attacked the office of BJP MLA Rishikesh Patel and pelted stones. Cops resorted to opening fire at the crowd, which vandalised police vans and other vehicles. According to police, the rally which began from Modhera chowk, was supposed to end at the Mehsana Collector office, where strong security had been set up. The protesters first clashed with police when only five persons were allowed to enter the deputy collector’s office to give their application. However the matter was controlled within a few minutes.
The rally was part of a series of several demonstrations held by youth of the Patidar community in the cities of North Gujarat and Rajkot in Saurashtra, under the aegis of a group called Sardar Patel Sevadal (SPS).
The community is considered one of the most prosperous in Gujarat. But President of SPS, Lalbhai Patel, said, “It is a wrong perception that Patidars are wealthy. Thirty per cent of Patidars, despite getting good marks, do not get admission in prestigious courses.”
However, sociologist Gaurang Jani raised questions over the group’s demand. “OBC means Socially and Educationally Backward Class. Patidars are neither socially nor educationally backward…So, either they don’t know what SEBC is, or this is an attempt to mobilise the Patidar community or raise questions over reservation policy (as a whole)… Suppose, Patidars are included in OBC list, then also most of them will not get the benefit as they would be part of creamy layer,” Jani said.