Free Press Journal

Hardik detained ahead of Ekta March; mobile internet banned



Surat/Ahmedabad: Hardik Patel, who is leading the Patel quota stir, was today detained by police along with 35 of his supporters ahead of his ‘Ekta March’ in Surat with the Gujarat administration following it up by imposing a ban on mobile Internet services across the state. 22-year-old Hardik’s detention led to vociferous protests by community members at some places. The state administration said it has imposed a ban on mobile internet services in the state, ostensibly to curb spread of rumours.

Hardik accused the state administration of muzzling the voice of Patidar community after his detention. No violent incident has been reported so far but Patel community members staged protests and tried to block roads at some places in Gujarat, police said.

“We detained Hardik Patel along with his 35 supporters from Mangadh chowk in Varachha area of the city ahead of their yatra today,” Surat Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana told PTI.

“They were detained in the interest of law and order as they did not seek any permission from the state authorities to take out this rally. Hardik and others were taken to police headquarters after the detention,” he said.

Asthana said those detained including Hardik will be released in the evening when the situation becomes conducive. Condemning the police action, the firebrand leader told reporters, after his detention, “The Gujarat government wants to muzzle our voice. They want to harass us. The government and the state police wants violence in the state. This act is against the spirit of democracy.”

Hardik had till yesterday kept his plans secret about the Ekta Yatra after being denied permission to hold it from Dandi to Ahmedabad. Earlier in the day, Hardik’s associate and the convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) in Surat-Alpesh Kathiria had announced that they will take out a rally from Mangadh chowk in Varachha area of the city.

“We have decided to ban mobile Internet service in the state to tackle the law and order situation and to curb rumours across Gujarat for an indefinite period,” Director General of Police PC Thakur said.

Unlike last time when incidents of violence broke out soon after detention of Hardik on August 25, this time they have started non-violent protest against his detention. Around 300 men and women were detained in Morbi town of Saurashtra region when they came out to protest against the detention and also tried to block the road leading to bus station.

In Bhavnagar and Dhrol town of Jamnagar people also protested against the detention and tried to block the road but roads were cleared by the police in few minutes.

Women belonging to Patel community also came out at few places in Surat and Lakhtar village of Surendranagar district to protest. Security has been beefed up in Patel dominated areas of the state to control any outbreak of the violence.

Hardik, who has emerged as the prominent face of Patels in Gujarat, has been spearheading the agitation to get reservation for Patel community under Other Backward Class (OBC). In the last two weeks, Hardik had announced that he will take out the “reverse Dandi March” twice, but cancelled the plan after Navsari district administration denied permission to them.

He has been hogging limelight after his aggressive speech in a rally on August 25 and the subsequent violence that gripped the state after his detention which left 10 people dead.