SURAT: Hardik Patel, who has been leading an agitation seeking reservations for the Patel community in Gujarat, was detained in Surat this morning as he tried to take out a protest march from the city. Fifty of his supporters were also detained by the police.
The 22-year-old was denied permission for his ‘Ekta Yatra’ by the administration yesterday, but he remained adamant saying he would go ahead with the march “at any cost”.
After last-minute venue change, Mr Patel arrived at the Mangadh chowk in Surat city with 50 of his supporters and after garlanding a statue of Sardar Patel, started marching in defiance of orders. As he was whisked away by a strong posse of policemen, he said “this is an attempt to muzzle our peaceful agitation by the state government. We will not give up and will continue our agitation peacefully. ”
In the past two weeks, Mr Patel had announced to take out the “reverse Dandi March,” retracing a demonstration-walk led by Mahatma Gandhi against the colonial British government in 1930. But he cancelled the plan after the district administration denied permission.
Mr Patel’s Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti or PAAS has been demanding reservation for the Patel community, also known as Patidars. The Patels, who make up 14 per cent of Gujarat’s population, were originally land-owning farmers who branched out into trades like diamond polishing. But they say their youth is now being excluded from university education and government jobs, which are reserved for castes seen as far more backward and in need of integration into the mainstream.
A few weeks ago, Hardik Patel executed a near-complete takeover of Ahmedabad with a massive rally that was followed with his brief arrest and two days of violence in towns including Surat and Vadodara.