New twist to Patel quota stir, Hardik begins fast in jail

Ahmedabad, Feb 18 (IANS) A day after a section of agitating Patel leaders expressed their willingness for peace talks with the Gujarat government, quota agitation spearhead Hardik Patel on Thursday began an indefinite fast at a jail in Surat district seeking reservation for the community.

According to sources, the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader in a letter to the Lajpore jail superintendent conveyed his decision to sit on an indefinite fast from Saturday but he gave up food and water on Thursday itself.

He has been in custody in Lajpore jail under several charges, including sedition.

Besides reservation in jobs and educational institutions for his community, Patel has also been demanding that all his supporters lodged in various jails in the state for the quota stir be released.

“We have isolated him in the jail and got his medical tests done. He is normal. We informed him that it was illegal to go on fast in jail but he refused to accept it. We shall take further action on the basis of reports from medical officers,” said S.L. Dusa, jailor at Lajpore jail.

“We have not heard from our superiors so far but we are trying our level best to convince him to give up his fast,” he added.

Meanwhile, Lalji Patel, leader of the Sardar Patel Group (SPG) which had joined hands with the PAAS in its agitation, said they would react to the development only after meeting Hardik.

“We have heard the news through the media. We will have to meet him in person and understand his views,” Lalji Patel said.

“I think at a time when everyone in the community, including elders, SPG and his own associates have decided to form a panel to discuss key issues with the state government, Hardik should have shown a little patience,” he said.

On Wednesday, parents of three associates of Hardik Patel submitted a letter to Chief Minister Anandiben Patel expressing their willingness for a compromise on the issue.

The letter that lists a couple of names of Patel quota stir leaders was signed by three closest aides of Hardik — Dinesh, Chirag and Ketan.

It said they would abide by any decision reached between the government and the community panel headed by Jairam Patel.

Though the letter carried the name of Hardik Patel, it did not bear his signature.

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