Thousands of Patidars poured on to the streets of Amreli and took out a huge rally on Monday demanding OBC status even as rally leaders announced that they will take their agitation to state capital Gandhinagar.
Patidars or Patels from across the Amreli district assembled near Sarathi Complex on Liliya road of the town at around 11 am under the banner of All Amreli District Patidar Samaj. Led by Dinesh Bambhroliya, a local builder and Haresh Bavishi, a lecturer with a private college, the group moved on the main roads of Amreli. The police had to divert traffic to other roads as the rally passed through Bhidbhajan Chowk, Rajkamal Chowk and Sardar Circle before culminating in the office of Amreli district collector.
Shops and private offices remained closed till afternoon and many students did not attend classes in support of a bandh call given by the rally organisers. Bavishi claimed that Patidars who are government employees and officers and serving in Amreli had gone on leave in support of the strike. However, Amreli District Collector Hargovind Suthar said no government officer or employee had gone on leave to support the strike.
As they marched on streets, Patels raised slogans of Jai Jai Sardar, an invocation to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the Iron Man of India, and Patidar Ekta Zindabaad (Long live the unity of Patidar)! Later, the rally leaders submitted a memorandum to the collector.
“We are not begging but demanding our right. We are not opposed to reservation for other communities. But Patidars should also be given reservation since all are not rich. At the least, candidates from those community which enjoy reservation should not be given jobs or admissions to educational institutes earmarked for general category candidates,” Bavishi said.
The public announcement system mounted on an utility vehicle played a an audio recording terming the caste-based reservation a historical mistake and said that not recognising Patidars as OBC would be another historical mistake.
“We are ready to take our fight to Gandhinagar and camp there if government does not pay heed to our demands. Amreli is ready to lead such a fight,” Bavishi added.
The rally in Amreli comes on the heels of similar rallies organised by the community members in all the 10 talukas of the district. Armeli is overwhelmingly dominated by Leuva Patels who account for more than half of the 15 lakh population of the district. The community, which is politically and economically influential, is demanding reservation in government jobs and admissions to educational institutes claiming its youth are losing out due to the policy of reservations.