Ahmedabad: Coming soon to Gujarat, Chowk pe Charcha by Hardik Patel, on the lines of the more famous Chai pe Charcha conducted by Narendra Modi in the general election campaign nearly three years ago.
Chowk pe Charcha, launched on Thursday, is Patidar community leader Hardik Patel’s new tactic to reach out to community members and revive his agitation, which has flagged in the six months that he was ordered out of the state.
“We have decided to bring up various issues including reservation, farmers’ plight in the state, atrocities against women, youth and unemployment by holding discussions at various places, especially rural areas. We have decided to call it Chowk pe Charcha and beginning today, we will hold meetings at 15 different societies of Surat," Patel said over the phone, after appearing before the Surat crime branch department on Thursday as per his bail conditions.
This would be the Patel Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) convenor’s first protest movement against the state government after returning to Gujarat.
Patel, who is facing charges of sedition, was released on bail by the Gujarat high court in July on the condition that he will stay outside the state for a six-month period, which ended earlier this month. In Udaipur since the order, he received a rousing welcome on entering the state on 17 January.
“Our next stop will be at Patan (district) where will have Chowk pe Charcha over the next seven days, covering various villages and meeting farmers and other villagers," he said, adding that the aim is to cover all parts of Gujarat.
A chowk represents a road junction or a roundabout which serves as a common meeting place for people residing in a neighbourhood.
Patel said PAAS will continue the fight for reservation in educational institutions and government jobs for the Patidar community, many of whom have ‘Patel’ as a surname. They make up about 14% of the state’s population and are seen as politically and economically powerful.
Addressing a rally in Banaskantha on 17 January, Patel said while he would fight till the end for reservation for his community members. He also pledged to free people from the rule of fear in the state.
Recently, Patel and other PAAS leaders met the family of a 50-year-old woman from Mandvi village in Bhavnagar district who was allegedly raped and murdered in December 2016.
A state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader said, on condition of anonymity, that the Patidar movement had waned in the last six months, and it remained to be seen if the PAAS leader could revive it. “Many youths who were earlier with Hardik have deserted him after getting disillusioned," he said.