Clashes at Patel protest for Hardik’s release, curfew imposed

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Patidar protesters demanding the release of their leader, Hardik Patel, clashed with police in Gujarat’s Mehsana on Sunday, injuring scores, setting a bus on fire and ransacking a minister’s office.

Authorities clamped a curfew in the district and blocked mobile internet services, while Patidars called a state-wide bandh on Monday.

Violence broke out after demonstrators from the community, which wants reservation in education and government jobs, were stopped on way to a prison where they wanted to court arrest.

They vandalised the office of minister of state for home, Rajnikant Patel, even as police used tear gas shells.

In July last year, Patidars in Gujarat launched an agitation demanding that OBC status be accorded to them.

Seven Patidar youth died in August and property worth Rs 40 crore was damaged in clashes with police. Their stir put the state’s BJP government on a sticky wicket.

With the 22-year-old Hardik and other core members of his Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti in jail since October under charges ranging from rioting to sedition, the aggressive campaign lost steam, despite hurting the ruling party in December’s panchayat elections.

But, tension flared up on Sunday, with thousands under the banner of the Sardar Patel Group launching a fresh protest after their talks with the government failed on April 11.  SPG convener Lalji Patel said the ‘Jail Bharo Andolan’ was organised as their one-month ultimatum to the government to concede to a 27-point charter of demands expired with “no favourable result”.

Mehsana collector Lochan Sehra said the district administration served notice against the campaign terming it

“illegal”.

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