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Gujarat: Patel rally in Mehsana turns violent, curfew imposed

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Patel protesters had gathered at Modhera crossroad as part of the ‘Jail Bharo’ agitation announced by the Sardar Patel Group (SPG), one of the prominent groups seeking OBC quota for the Patel community. Image courtesy: ANI Twitter

A massive rally of the Patel community at Mehsana town in Gujarat demanding reservation and release of their jailed leaders today turned violent as police used lathicharge and fired teargas shells on the agitators who allegedly engaged in stone-pelting.

Patel protesters had gathered at Modhera crossroad as part of the ‘Jail Bharo’ agitation announced by the Sardar Patel Group (SPG), one of the prominent groups seeking OBC quota for the Patel community.

SPG chief Lalji Patel received head injury during the face-off with the police.

While the police claimed they resorted to lathicharge only after some persons started throwing stones at the police vehicles, Lalji Patel alleged that Patel agitators were targeted without any provocation.

“Our protest was peaceful as announced earlier. However, police suddenly hit me and some of our members when we were walking ahead of the procession. I was hit on head. You can see the blood on my face. We were beaten up without any provocation,” said Patel, who along with some other agitators were detained by the police subsequently.

In-charge DGP of Gujarat P P Pandey claimed the situation deteriorated only after some people resorted to violence.

“Police always work to establish peace. The gathering was peaceful initially. However, the situation deteriorated only after some persons resorted to violence and damaged property. I have already sent additional force to handle the situation,” Pandey said.

Meanwhile, SPG as well as Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) have given a call for `Gujarat Bandh’ tomorrow.

“Our Patel brothers were brutally beaten up during the peaceful rally today. Lalji and few other SPG leaders received grievous injuries in the police lathicharge. We condemn this use of excessive force by police and have given a call for Gujarat bandh tomorrow,” said SPG spokesperson Purvin Patel, adding that PAAS too supported tomorrow’s bandh.

Thousands of Patel community members gathered at Modhera crossroad on the outskirts of the city today to court arrest on a mass scale, pressing for reservation and release of Hardik Patel and three of his aides who are in jail.

Large number of police, with water canons and teargas shell guns, were already deployed at the crossroad.

“Police first used the water canon to disperse the mob, as the mob attacked some police vehicles. Teargas shells were also fired as the mob started throwing stones. It also set ablaze some private vehicles. The operation to control the situation is still on,” said a police control room official.

Health Minister and spokesperson of the Gujarat Government Nitin Patel appealed to the protesters to maintain peace.

“Patel leaders (Lalji Patel and others) had earlier promised that even if he is arrested, others will stage peaceful protest. However, violence took place after some people incited others. I appeal to them to maintain peace as all the problems can be solved through dialogue,” the minister said.

Mehsana collector imposed curfew in the town late in the afternoon and also banned the internet service.

“We have imposed a curfew in Mehsana town till tomorrow morning. Internet service has been suspended during this period. The violent mob set ablaze two government properties….a sub-divisional magistrate and a mamlatdar (revenue officer) were injured in the stone-pelting,” said Collector Lochan Sehra.

In Surat, police detained as many as 435 Patel agitators who came out on streets after learning about incidents in Mehsana.

Surat police commissioner Ashish Bhatia said the situation was under control. “We have detained 435 persons from different parts of city, including Katargam, Varachha, Sachin and Athvalines areas, as they came out on roads and staged demonstrations. They are still under detention,” said Bhatia.

“At some places, agitators also tried to block the roads by burning garbage. However, police took swift action and foiled the attempts,” he said.

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