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Hardik Patel speaks at a press conference in New Delhi on 30 August. Photo: AFP
Hardik Patel speaks at a press conference in New Delhi on 30 August. Photo: AFP

Hardik Patel holds meetings in Delhi, signals national agitation

Hardik Patel, the convener of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, said the agitation 'was a marathon and not a 100-metre race'

New Delhi: Hardik Patel, the face of the Patel quota stir in Gujarat, on Sunday announced plans for a nation-wide agitation seeking reservation for nearly “27 crore people" of various communities including Gujjars and Kurmis. The 22-year-old leader, who held a series of meeting with various community leaders, said the reservation agitation “was a marathon and not a 100-metre race" and he intends to hold mega-rallies in different parts of the country to widen the stir.

“Whatever has happened in Gujarat, we want to take it at the national level and there are (people of) around 12 states who are connected to us," he said. Hardik had led a massive rally on 25 August to press for quota for the Patidar community under the OBC category in Ahmedabad. His detention was followed by widespread violence which claimed the lives of 10 people including a police constable and kept the state administration on tenterhooks.

“It (agitation) is a marathon and not a 100-metre race. It will go on for 1-2 years. I intend to bring 27 crore people our community together which are in different states. I want to take our movement all over the nation. Wherever the Patel community needs me, I will go. During this time, if we feel the need for muscle power of the community, they will help us. And whenever required they will block the highways," Hardik said at a press conference.

In his reference to 27 crore people, Hardik was referring to related communities in other states like Kurmis and Gujjars. “We intend to organise a mega rally in Lucknow, Jantar Mantar.... we will give a call to the Patels of India," he said. Favouring reservation for poor from every community, he said, “The country has gone back 60 years because of reservations and this has hindered its prospects of becoming a super power. Those who score good marks but are still unable to get admission require reservation. The day there is a proper blueprint on reservation, we can strengthen our country and take it to a new level."

Hardik, the convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, skipped the funeral of Swetang Patel, who was killed allegedly in police custody after being picked up during the agitation in Ahmedabad, though he had on Saturday said that he would be present, and flew to Delhi on Sunday morning.

Hardik also lashed out the Gujarat police for its action during the agitation and said he will be holding a mega-rally in Madhya Pradesh on Monday against it. While advocating for reservations for the Patels, he said the poor from every community should be given reservation.

“Reservations have been given to 182 castes of which only 4-5 castes are in Gujarat. In 1984, there was opposition from the Patel community (before the Mandal Commission) for reservations. Today the system has become weak and youth are not getting employment. Farmers are committing suicide and those who have an MBA degree have become salesman," he said. When asked about his views on political parties and leaders, he said, “We have never opposed any person, any political party or any community. We are fighting for our rights and it should be given to us."

Asked about his photo with Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Pravin Togadia, which is in circulation on the social media, Hardik said, “I have a photo with (Gujarat) health minister Nitinbhai Patel and many others. I run an organisation and many people from the BJP and the Congress come. So merely having a photo with anyone does not say anything." Defending his demand for reservation for his community, Hardik said 70 lakh people had participated in the rallies, which means “they felt the pain". “People say you (the Patels) are very prosperous, but only 5-10% people are prosperous, but not the entire community. If 70 lakh people need something (reservation), the Constitution should be changed. If the Supreme Court can work at 3 am in the morning (in reference to the Yakub Memom case), then surely they can look into this matter," he said when asked whether their demand would stand scrutiny before the apex court or the OBC commission.

Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel had conveyed to the Patel community her inability to meet the quota demand as the state has already reached the 50% limit set by the apex court. When asked about his political views, Hardik said he likes the views of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and dressing sense of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his thoughts on the security of the nation. “I am not a politician and have no intentions of becoming one," he said.

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