Violence in Gujarat town: Curfew imposed, internet services cut

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Ahmedabad, April 17 (IANS) Curfew was imposed and the Border Security Force (BSF) was deployed in Mehsana town in Gujarat on Sunday after pro-reservation Patidars (Patels) turned violent, leading to arson and clashes with police.

Authorities suspended internet services and mobile phone applications till Monday morning in Mehsana and other north Gujarat towns after the violence to prevent the spread of incendiary information.

Similar action is likely to be taken in Ahmedabad and certain cities of Saurashtra region, informed sources said.

Police and paramilitary forces were deployed in all north Gujarat towns, besides Ahmedabad and Surat, which are known strongholds of the pro-quota Patels.

More than 1,000 agitators from the Patel community in Mehsana and over 500 in Surat were taken into preventive custody as large crowds gathered near the district jails in both places in defiance of prohibitory orders.

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Surat Police Commissioner Ashish Bhatia told local TV channels that most of those detained were from the Patel-dominated Varachha area.

Asserting that trouble-makers would not be spared, Bhatia said: “This city belongs to all and those creating mischief will be dealt with strictly.”

Chief Minister Anandiben Patel said after a government programme in south Gujarat’s Valsad town: “Our government is for the people and not for agitators.”

Speaking to Gujarati TV channels, state BJP president Vijay Rupani asked the people as well as the police to exercise retraint.

The agitators attacked the camp office of Minister of State for Home Rajnikant Patel. An FCI godown and a state government building were set on fire in Mehsana.

The Patel mobs also torched a Sub Divisional Magistrate’s vehicle and a state transport bus.

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Two buses of Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service (AMTS) were attacked with stones in Patidar-domiated Ghatlodia area of Ahmedabad. A group of Patels blocked the Bhavnagar-Talaja highway in Saurashtra region.

About 200 state transport buses were diverted from sensitive routes as a precaution and drivers were instructed to take the buses to the nearest police stations.

In Ahmedabad city also, some buses run by AMTS were diverted from Patel-dominated pockets while civic authorities were holding a meeting to decide on discontinuing several routes in the city.

Police burst over two dozen tear gas shells and used water cannons as well as rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.

Sardar Patel Group (SPG) convener Lalji Patel sustained head injuries as his supporters pelted policemen with stones.

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Gujarat TV channels reported police as saying that Patel was hurt in the stone-throwing and not lathicharge.

Patel along with his supporters was also taken into preventive custody.

The SPG has given a call for a shutdown in Gujarat on Monday in protest against the police action.

The SPG is a pro-quota group like the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti of Hardik Patel, which has been agitating for over eight months for reservation for the Patels in government jobs and educational institutions under the Other Backward Class category.

Sunday’s ‘jail bharo’ programme was in support of the demand for the release of the jailed Patel leaders and withdrawal of cases against them.

The SPG earlier announced its second round of agitation if its demands were not met by April 17.

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