Updated: October 7, 2016 5:03:11 pm
The Patidar reservation imbroglio which has caused much embarrassment to the BJP-ruled Gujarat Government forcing it to impose curfew for the first time in the state after the 2002 communal riots, and to suspend mobile internet services twice in less than a month, seems to be back to square one. After two and a half months, the controversy is no nearer resolution than it was in July when it began in earnest.
The agitation spearheaded by Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PASS) convener Hardik Patel had initially demanded OBC status for the community to secure reservation in education and government jobs. The agitation, started on July 6, witnessed around 150 public rallies by the Patidars that culminated in August 25 Ahmedabad rally.
Following the Ahmedabad rally and Hardik Patel’s detention, widespread riots had broken out across the state and government had to impose curfew at a number of places including Ahmedabad, Surat, and Mehsana. Ten persons were killed in the riots; eight of whom were Patidars. It also resulted in serious criminal cases against hundreds of the Patidar community.
During the riots, many Patidar ministers were targeted. And subsequently, many BJP legislators and leaders were forced to leave public events by Patidar women clanking rolling pins on steel plates in protest.
Throughout these developments, the state government had maintained its stand that under the constitutional provisions and precedents set by the Supreme Court of India, the Patidar community could not be given OBC status. The Chief Minister personally made appeals to the Patidar leaders, formed a seven-member committee consisting of senior ministers of her government and invited them to talk. The government has offered a financial package for the poor Patidars in Gujarat to aide them in education, employment and business.
However, the Patidar leaders, led by Hardik, did not seem to agree with this and continued their protest pressing for the OBC status. Meanwhile, post August 25 riots, Hardik and PAAS leaders had alleged wilful police atrocities against Patidars and demanded action against thousands of police officials.
Meanwhile, Hardik and his associates – after the August 25 Ahmedabad rally and subsequent riots – announced a ‘Reverse Dandi March’ from Navsari district as a mark of protest. However, it was denied permission by the state authorities and thus postponed twice. Eventually, Finance Minister Saurabh Patel negotiated with PAAS leaders and finalised a meeting between them and the chief minister accompanied by select cabinet ministers and leaders of Gujarat BJP to work out a solution.
However, following the meeting, Hardik said that he did not know whether to call the meeting a ‘flop show’ or not. Interestingly, Hardik and his associates reportedly did not discuss the issue of reservation and had pressed only for action against police for alleged willful atrocities inflicted on Patidars — before discussing the reservation issue. He admitted that the government had not given any assurance in that regard since the matter was a sub judice.
Sources say that CM Anandiben Patel has already given a clear message even to those Patidar leaders who complained of police atrocities that if somebody takes the law into his own hands, the law will take its course and no action will be taken against police.
Hardik attempted yet another rally in Surat on Sunday. He was immediately detained and then arrested. The event found reaction in clashes between police and Patidar community members in different parts of Gujarat.
Under these circumstances, when the agitators are adamant on their demands and the government is making its stand clear which is not acceptable to PAAS, the imbroglio seems to be back to square one. There cold be another Patidar rally, possible conflict with the police and tension in the state. Sources in PAAS say they are now planning a ‘massive rally’ mainly of women in Surat in a week or two.
The government seems to be in a wait and watch stance.
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