After about four months in custody facing various charges, including that of sedition, Hardik Patel, the spearhead of the quota agitation by the Patel community in Gujarat, has expressed willingness to sit down for talks with the state government to break the logjam.
In a quick response, the state government too agreed for talks “if officially communicated” by the 23-year-old Patel community leader.
Hardik, convenor of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), who had earlier rejected any compromise with the government till the Patels were granted reservation on the lines of Other Backward Classes, told reporters that he was “ready for talks” if acceptable to the government.
Hardik was having a brief chat with newsmen at Visnagar in north Gujarat’s Mehsana district just as he was being transferred back to Surat jail from where he was brought four days ago in connection with another case.
Government spokesman and Health Minister Nitin Patel said the government was yet to receive any “official communication” from Hardik but added: “The government always believed that solutions to any problem can be found through negotiations and we are ready to discuss the issues with the PAAS.”
Hardik’s Sunday turnaround was reportedly facilitated by some leaders of the religious trusts of the Patels who had offered to mediate between the government and the agitating Patidars over the reservation issue.
Extending an olive branch to the Patels, the state government had earlier decided to review 387 FIRs filed against various Patel leaders and try to withdraw as many legal cases.
Not only this, it had offered medical assistance from the chief minister’s relief fund to Patel leaders injured in police action and offered compensation to the family members of those killed in police firing.
Hardik and 14 other PAAS leaders are in custody since October 18 on various charges and all their efforts to secure bail have been opposed tooth and nail by the government.
The government, however, told the mediators recently that it would not oppose bail applications of the PAAS leaders if they agreed to talks