Ahmedabad: A state-wide shutdown, called a day after a Patidar mega-rally was held here demanding reservations in education and jobs for the Patel community, turned violent with reports of clashes coming from different parts of the state, forcing authorities to clamp curfew in several places and close educational institutions, officials said on Wednesday.
Police said violent protesters attacked security personnel overnight with stones and sticks and burned government and private vehicles. No casualties were reported, police said.
Curfew was imposed in several places, including Mehsana city, parts of Surat city and Unjha and Visnagar towns, and educational institutions closed in the industrial district. Troopers of the State Reserve Police Force, BSF and Rapid Action Force were deployed in cities such as Ahmedabad and Mehsana.
Cellphone communications were blocked in state capital Ahmedabad to stop rumours from spreading and gangs from coordinating their movements against law enforcement agencies.
The violence erupted after the convener of Patidaar Arakshan Andolan Samiti (PAAS) and leader of the agitation, 22-year-old Hardik Patel, was briefly detained by Gujarat Police following a rally attended by nearly half-a-million people. Hardik has called a state-wide shutdown on Wednesday to press his demand.
After being released, Patel appealed to his followers for peace and restraint, and also announced a state-wide shutdown on Wednesday.
Earlier, he had served a 48-hour ultimate to the state government to concede the PAAS demands following which he said agitation would be intensified.
As news of the police action on Patel spread, angry Patidars reacted violently in different parts of the state, attacking public and private properties, buses, vehicles, even as Chief Minister Anandiben Patel appealed for peace.
As per tentative counts, more than 100 buses have been damaged in different cities, while several private cars and motorcycles were set on fire in different parts of the state.
Tuesday's mammoth mega-rally had over 1.20 million Patidars. It capped a 55-day long agitation across the state with scores of mini-rallies in different towns and cities for the main demands of the Patel community.
In a mega show of strength to push its demand for inclusion in the OBC category for reservation, the Patel community – led by Hardik – warned the BJP government in Gujarat that it will face consequences in the 2017 assembly polls if the plea is not accepted.
"If you do not give our right (reservation), we will snatch it. Whoever will talk of interest of Patels will rule over Patels," Hardik told the gathering.
"In 1985, we had uprooted Congress from Gujarat, today there is BJP. 2017 (the state election year) is coming...lotus will not bloom in the mud, it will never bloom. If you will talk about our interest, then only we will nurture your lotus," he said, warning the state government. The lotus is the BJP’s party symbol.
The Patels, also known as Patidars, make up around 12% of Gujarat’s population. Tuesday’s rally in Ahmedabad was called to press the community’s demand for inclusion in the other backward class (OBC) category.
The government, however, has rejected the Patels’ demand.