Gandhinagar: In the first of a series of criminal cases filed against Patidar pro-reservation leaders, Hardik Patel and two others have been sentenced to two years imprisonment in a rioting case. They were bailed out soon after.
Besides Hardik, the two others jailed by the Visnagar court in north Gujarat are Sardar Patel group leader Lalji Patel and AK Patel. The 14 others, arrested alongside for rioting, arson, damage to property and unlawful assembly, were freed. The ban on Hardik Patel prohibiting him from entering Mehsana district remains in place. On July 23, 2015, a rally seeking reservation for the Patidar community had turned violent in Visnagar town and the office of BJP legislator Rishikesh Patel was ransacked. An FIR had been filed against eight people and a mob of 500 people in the case.
Ahead of the judgment on Wednesday, both Hardik and Lalji had issued appeals to their supporters to maintain peace, whatever the outcome. Soon after the sentence, Hardik dubbed BJP rule in Gujarat as “Hitlerian” on his micro-blogging social media platform and said that the fight would continue. “If those who fight for truth and their rights are rebels than I am one and if it is a sin to protest than I am a sinner,” the post stated.
With this judgment, Hardik, who has been a thorn in the BJP flesh in Gujarat, becomes ineligible to contest elections according to provisions of the Peoples Representation Act, unless he gets permanent bail or obtains a stay on the judgment from a higher court. Speculation has been rife that Hardik was toying with the idea of contesting the forthcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Gujarat. He is slated to go on an indefinite fast from August 25.