Barring Mehsana, which continued to remain on the boil with protesters setting fire to the empty house of Gujarat’s junior home minister Rajnikant Patel, the statewide bandh called by Patidar groups on Monday evoked a tepid response.
Sixty-odd kilometres away, a government panel met representatives of the community in Gandhinagar in an effort to end the prolonged quota stir.
While Patidar leaders said after the meeting that they attended the talks only to get their leaders, including Hardik Patel, released, and that the latter will take over for the final discussions on all issues, including quota and the extent of it, once they are out of jail, Health Minister Nitin Patel said the government has already sent letters to magistrates and government counsels to withdraw certain cases against Patidars “in public interest”. He also said that neither Hardik, of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), nor Sardar Patel Group (SPG) leader Lalji Patel had put forth a demand for OBC status for Patidars, contrary to PAAS’s demands since the agitation was launched in July last year.
Nitin Patel is leading the state government’s ministerial committee, negotiating peace talks with various educational, religious and social leaders of Patidar community to find a solution. Other ministers who attended Monday’s meeting are Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, Saurabh Patel and Shankar Chaudhary.
Pointing out that PAAS has made various demands, and the government is “positively going ahead” on those after having “addressed” many issues in this year’s budget, Nitin Patel said, “It is stated in Hardik-bhai’s letter that their community (Patidar) should not be included among the OBCs. He has demanded a Commission for the Patidar community. Lalji-bhai has also made similar demands.”
He said, “The main issues (at present) received from Patidar leaders are to withdraw cases against the agitators, and to secure bail for those behind bars. We will now meet the Chief Minister and apprise her.”
Earlier in the day, a mob attacked minister Rajnikant Patel’s house soon after curfew was lifted in Mehsana. Gandhinagar Range IG Manoj Shashidhar said miscreants threw burning rags inside the empty house, which had been torched during the quota violence last August, too, and tried to set fire to furniture.
Of eight FIRs lodged through the day in the district, one named Lalji Patel and 36 others for attempt to murder. Leading a ‘jail bharo’ stir in Mehsana, Lalji Patel had sustained injuries on his head during Sunday’s clashes. Late in the evening, there were fresh clashes in Visnagar, Mehsana, and police used teargas shells to disperse the mob.
Mobile data services remained suspended in big cities across the state until 6 am Tuesday.
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