Ahmedabad, July 25 (IANS) A local court in Visnagar town of North Gujarat sentenced firebrand Patidar leader Hardik Patel and two others to a two-year jail term and slapped a fine of Rs 50,000 in a 2015 rioting case. The court later granted bail to the three.
The case refers to mob violence that resulted in then BJP legislator Rushikesh Patel’s office being vandalized during a rally in 2015, organised for reservation for the Patel (or Patidar) community in government jobs and educational institutions.
Hours after the sentence, Hardik Patel described the BJP rule in Gujarat as “Hitlershahi.” “I am a sinner, if it is a sin to fight for social justice and rights. If those who fight for truth and their rights are rebels, then I am a rebel,” he said in a statement on a social media platform on Wednesday.
“There was not a single witness who saw me where the incident took place. I respect the court’s decision, but I will exercise my right to challenge it,” he told reporters.
“What about action against policemen who unleashed terror on the agitating Patidars and their families after the August 2015 rally? he asked. Patel was referring to the massive police crackdown after a rally on August 25, 2015, which led to the death of 14 Patel community members.
“The BJP might think I would not be able to fight an election (in 2019) if I am in jail for two years, but let them take it that I am not here to fight elections,” he said. “If I get an opportunity, I can contest an election,” he added.
Patel said he would go ahead with his indefinite fast from August 25, the third anniversary of the Patels’ rally, and re-launch his agitation.
Besides Patel, the other two sentenced were Sardar Patel Group leader Laljibhai Patel and A K Patel. There were 14 others in the same case who were booked for rioting, arson, damage to property and unlawful assembly. However, they were let free.
The earlier ban on Hardik Patel from entering Mehsana district where Visnagar is located, however, remains in place.