Activist Hardik Patel jailed 2 years in rioting case

Patidar reservation campaigner’s two aides Lalji Patel and A.K. Patel were also sentenced to two-year imprisonment

New Delhi: Firebrand Patidar reservation campaigner Hardik Patel was on Wednesday sentenced to two years in prison after a court in Gujarat found him guilty in a three-year-old rioting case. Hardik’s two aides Lalji Patel and A.K. Patel were also sentenced to two-year imprisonment. A total of 17 persons were named as accused in the case linked to Patidar/Patel quota movement.

“The Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader and two of his aides — Lalji Patel and AK Patel — have been found guilty of rioting, arson, damage to property and unlawful assembly. They had also attacked Bharatiya Janata Party legislator Rushikesh Patel’s office in Visnagar on July 23, 2015 during the quota stir in Gujarat,” the court observed.

Apart from the imprisonment, the three were fined Rs50,000 (Dh2,671) each. Soon after the verdict, Hardik and his aides were granted bail.

Reacting to the verdict, Hardik, 25, said BJP’s “Hitlershahi” cannot prevent him from fighting for “truth, farmers, youth and poor”.

“If it is a sin to fight for social justice and rights, then I am a sinner. If those who fight for the truth and rights are rebels, then I am a rebel. BJP’s Hitlershahi cannot suppress my fight for truth, farmers, youth and poor by putting me behind bars,” he tweeted.

Last October, the court had issued an arrest warrant against Hardik for not attending the court proceedings.

After the verdict, Hardik announced that he would sit on an indefinite fast from August 25 to press for reservation to Patel community in education and government jobs.

In July 2015, Patidar youth, many of whom are surnamed Patel, started public demonstrations across Gujarat demanding Other Backward Class (OBC) status for their community, which could entitle Patidars to a reserved quota in various places.

They were supported by Sardar Patel Sevadal, an organisation for community service, and later formed PAAS headed by Hardik. Their agitation started in Mehsana on July 6, 2015, and a demonstration was held in Mansa on July 22.

The demonstration in Visnagar on July 23 turned violent when some Patel community agitators torched some vehicles and vandalised the office of BJP legislator Rishikesh Patel. Demonstrations were also held in Vijapur and Mehsana on July 28. The police booked 152 persons for violating prohibitory orders by holding the demonstration.

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