Patel bandh call gets poor response, minister’s unoccupied house torched

Ahmedabad, April 18 (IANS) A Gujarat bandh called by the Patel community on Monday received lukewarm response with life remaining normal across the State, including in Mehsana town, which saw clashes between the Patidars and police on Sunday.

Barring an incident in which an unoccupied house of Minister of State for Home Rajnikant Patel in Mehsana was set on fire in the afternoon by unidentified miscreants and burning of vehicle tyres in the town, there were no reports of trouble from anywhere in the State.

Patel’s house in Radhe Exotica colony which was under repair, was also attacked last August during the Patel agitation as well as during another stir in November.

The agitating leaders had then said the minister’s house was targeted for “setting the police free on the Patel youths for repression”.

Authorities lifted curfew and prohibitory orders in the town in the morning while police, State Reserve Police and Rapid Action Force remained deployed in the town and other north Gujarat towns.

Mehsana Superintendent of Police Chaitanya Mandlik said the shutdown call received no response in the district.

Police lodged complaints against 25 people for the violence on Sunday.

“You can look around and see that traffic is normal, the shops are open,” Mandlik told journalists.

Agitating Patel groups, who had rushed to the district jails in Mehsana and Surat to court arrest on Sunday, had clashed with police who tried to stop them.

Mobs later burnt camp offices of two state ministers, Nitin Patel and Rajnikant Patel, besides parliamentarian Jaishree Patel as well as state transport buses in Mehsana and Ahmedabad.

They also burnt a couple of government offices and blocked a state highway in Saurashtra.

The authorities had suspended mobile internet services in north Gujarat and Ahmedabad to prevent the spread of rumours and incendiary information. The ban will continue till Tuesday morning.

Mandlik said Sardar Patel Group (SPG) leader Laljibhai Patel, who was detained on Sunday, had sustained a head injury during stone-pelting by agitators and was not caned by police as claimed by him and his supporters.

He cited medical reports to say that Laljibhai Patel was hit by a stone.

Meanwhile, the Gujarat government on Monday called a meeting between a ministerial committee set up by Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and leaders of Patidar groups to chalk out a possible solution to the nine-month agitation demanding reservation for the community in government jobs and educational institutions under the Other Backward Class (OBC) category.

After the meeting that lasted for over three hours, minister Nitin Patel who heads the committee told reporters that the meeting “covered a lot of ground” and a settlement was “on the cards”.

Pointing out that measures like facilities to the farming community, expansion of educational facilities in the rural areas and many others raised by the Sardar Patel Group and Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) had already been initiated in the current budget, Patel said other issues would be discussed with Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and “if necessary with the central government leaders” before taking a final decision on the reservation demand.

When contacted, PAAS and SPG spokespersons Varun Patel and Purvin Patel, respectively, said those who attended the meeting had nothing to with the Patel agitation and were the “hand-maidens of the government who are not interesting in a solution”.

“The government has done nothing but holding irrelevant meetings through the last nine months,” Purvin Patel said.

Varun Patel asserted that these so-called leaders who attended the meeting were with the government and not with the community.

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