Mehsana (Gujarat): Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday said the ruling BJP had acquired a tendency to crush all voices of dissent in Gujarat, adding he was shocked at how Patidar protesters were killed in police firing last year.
Kejriwal’s statement came after he met families of pro-reservation agitators of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), two of whom died in police firing during a massive rally in Ahmedabad in August last year.
The Aam Aadmi Party national convener, who arrived here on Friday night on a three-day visit to the state, raised slogans of ‘Jai Patidar, Jai Sardar’, which were lustily echoed by a large gathering of Patel youths whose disenchantment with the Bharatiya Janata Party government proved costly for the ruling party in the local body and panchayat elections.
At Ahmedabad airport, Kejriwal said the BJP might try to disrupt his Sunday rally in Surat, which is also going to be held in the Patidar bastion of Varachha. His trip is focused on wooing the Patidars, a key vote bank of the BJP for three decades.
Addressing a public rally at Pilodra village late on Friday night, Kejriwal raised the issue of police firing on protesters in August 2015, in which 13 Patel youths were killed. The Patidar agitation started at this village in north Gujarat’s Mehsana district.
As the slogans of ‘Jai Sardar, Jai Patidar’ rent the air, he said: “I met the grieving families of Nishit and Mayur, who were killed in unprovoked police firing. There was just nothing — no violence at all — the police just fired at them obviously to scare them.”
“Police training is to fire first below the knees, not straight at the chest and the throat. This was not followed here. What did this mean?” the AAP leader said.
Kejriwal said that Nishit and Mayur must get justice. “And this is possible only by punishing those who issued the orders to fire at the innocent Patidars. I am sure it couldn’t have been a magistrate who issued such orders, it must be some neta.”
“It is clearly someone sitting on top there; you all know who,” he said with a smile, putting up his finger. The crowd responded: “General Dyre, General Dyre”, a reference to the British officer who ordered his forces to fire on unarmed people at Jallianwallah Bagh in Punjab in 1919.
PAAS has held BJP president Amit Shah — and not the then Chief Minister Anandiben Patel who held the home portfolio — responsible for giving firing order on protesters and has been referring to him as General Dyre.
Responding to Kejriwal’s gesture, PAAS leader Hardik Patel, in a letter, urged him to support the cause of the Patel community from the national capital.
Kejriwal offered prayers at Maa Umiya temple in Unjha, the deity of Kadva Patidars, and met more families in Ahmedabad before leaving for Surat.
He said that in Surat, he will discuss the issues of locals and ask them whether AAP should contest the assembly elections in Gujarat in 2017.
With the BJP rejecting Patidar’s Other Backward Castes quota demand, the disgruntled community had disrupted a public event of Shah in Surat last month. Shah was forced to wind up his speech within minutes due to the protest.
Kejriwal’s Sunday rally will be held in the same area.