Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home district, Mehsana in Gujarat was brought under curfew and internet services suspended on Sunday after more than two dozen people were wounded as Patidar pro-reservation campaigners demanding the release of one of its leaders, Hardik Patel turned violent, as police fought running street battles with stone-throwing demonstrators and detained hundreds.
The district is the epicentre of the community’s movement for reservation in education and government jobs, which it has been demanding since July 2015.
According to a report of Hindustan Times, angry protesters reportedly threw stones at police and set ablaze an unspecified numbers of buildings and vehicles, including in adjacent Surat district, when authorities stopped them on the way to prison where they wanted to court arrest as part of their "jail bharo” programme.
Offices of ministers Nitin Patel and Rajnikant Patel were ransacked, a bus was set ablaze and police vehicles were damaged by the mob.
"Such agitations keep happening. Our work is to serve the people,” the chief minister told reporters in Dharmpur.
Sardar Patel Group leader Lalji Patel, who was wounded near Mehsana sub-jail, called the chief minister’s statement "irresponsible” while Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela blamed the "government’s inaction” that forced Patidars to resuscitate their stir.
The protesters under the banner of the Hardik-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti and Sardar Patel Group called a statewide bandh on Monday after police charged them with sticks, fired tear gas shells and used water cannons.
The police were prepared as the Mehsana administration on Saturday denied permission to hold the programme, calling it anti-national and illegal.
"Some antisocial elements started pelting stones after which clashes broke out,” director general of police PP Pandey said.
The violence broke out a day before a crucial meeting between Patidar leaders and the government to break the reservation deadlock.
The community had submitted a 27-point charter of demands but after talks failed on April 11.
According to HT report, the government is likely to offer two proposals — reservation to the economically backward section of society and setting up a commission to address the Patidars’ demands.
"The meeting will go ahead as scheduled. What happened today is a law-and-order issue,” said health minister Nitin Patel.
But Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti and Sardar Patel Group might boycott the meeting.
The Patidars started their stir demanding reservation benefits since July 2015 in the BJP-ruled state.
In August, seven people died and public property worth Rs 40 crore was damaged during clashes with police.
Hardik and three of his aides were charged with sedition and put in jail in October, a move that managed to calm down the aggressive campaign. The stir is considered one of the reasons behind the ruling BJP’s panchayat elections debacle in December.