After a massive rally organised by Gujarat's economically and politically powerful Patel community demanding reservations in government jobs and educational institutes, police cracked down on the agitators and detained 21-year-old Hardik Patel, the leader of the Patel Andolan Anamat Samiti (PAAS), the group spearheading the movement.
The police swooped in late at night and disrupted the rally which had turned into an indefinite fast. The protestors had already turned violent with incidents of group clashes and stone throwing. They arrested Hardik Patel, on the claim that he did not take permission for a hunger strike. The arrest of the leader sparked violence around the state, the Patel community was up in arms, leading to clashes with the police and torching of public property. Three people were reportedly killed in Ahmedabad.
" He has been arrested because the organisers had not taken permission to hold the fast. The police permission was only for the rally and the gathering during the day," a police official told The Hindu .
Hardik Patel addressing Rally in Ahmedabad | Source: PTI
Earlier in the day the police had to resort to lathi charge and teargas shelling when clashes broke out between different groups within the Patel community.
Due to the violence that erupted as a cause of his arrest, the police were forced to release Hardik Patel after only a few hours in custody.
Hardik urged his community to maintain peace and clam. "I make an appeal to maintain peace and keep calm. I give a call for Gujarat bandh tomorrow, August 26," he said.
Ahmedabad: Police lathicharge Patel community members after their agitation for reservation turned violent | Source: PTI
Paramilitary forces like State Reserve Police Force, BSF and Rapid Action Force have been deployed in cities like Ahmedabad and Mehsana.
As tension mounted in her state, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel took to Twitter to address the people of Gujarat.
On August 25, at least half a million people had gathered in Ahmedabad to demand reservations for the Patel caste - which also happens to be one of the states' wealthiest communities. Nearly 20,000 security personnel had been deployed in the city for security and crowd control.
Members of the Patel (Patidar) community carry a cut-out of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel during a meeting and mega rally to press for their demands of reservation | Source: PTI
At the rally, Hardik Patel warned the ruling BJP government that it would face consequences in the 2017 Gujarat elections if their demands were not met.
The Patels, who make up 12 percent of the population of Gujarat, claim they are struggling to compete with the less privileged castes for jobs and university places in government institutions. Therefore, they are demanding reservation.
Buses set on fire in Surat on Tuesday by people after the arrest of Hardik Patel, convener of 'Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti | Source: PTI
" If you do not give our right (reservation), we will snatch it. Whoever will talk of interest of Patels will rule over Patels," Hardik said at the gathering.
After addressing the gathering, Hardik said that he along with his three aides would be sitting on a hunger strike until the Gujarat Chief Minister comes to receive their memorandum of demands.