Hardik Patel’s plan for a nationwide agitation has evoked mixed reactions from the Patel community in Pune, with some seeing the 22-year-old as an upstart in the Patidar community while others saying he is the voice of a growing section of Patels who are jobless and is fighting for their rights.
Patel has been fighting for the inclusion of his caste in the Other Backward Class (OBC) category and reservations for them in education and government jobs.
“For 60 years, there has been enough of caste-based reservations. The government must now ensure that there is free and compulsory education for children from economically weak sections till the age of 18,” says 73-year-old Purshottam Patel, managing trustee of Poona Patidar Samaj.
According to him, there are various groups of Patidar Samaj from Surat, Vadodara, Kheda and Ahmedabad who stay in Pune and their numbers would be about 10,000.
Echoing similar sentiments, 72-year-old Hasmukh Patel, trustee of the Poona Gujarati Kelvani Mandal, says there is a sizeable section among the Patidar community who are poor and economically weak.
In Vidarbha, the Patidars already have OBC status, but not many are keen in western Maharashtra, he says.
According to 64-year-old Dr R C Patel, who hails from Dharmaj in Kheda, Gujarat, asking for more reservations creates a distance between people.
Jitesh Sojitra, member of Shree Saurashtra Leuva Patel Samaj and administrator of the community’s Facebook page, says the issue is simple. “Either there is reservation or there is no reservation. I support Hardik Patel as he has the courage to stand up for the rights of the common people,” says Sojitra.
Chandu Kavar, who hails from Surendranagar in Gujarat and works as an IT professional in Pune, “In each community, there are poor people. So the government must reserve some jobs for them at least.” Kuvar is a member of the Saurashtra Kadva Samaj.