On the eve of Patidars’ meeting with the Gujarat government, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti leader Varun Patel speaks to Rediff.com’s Prasanna D Zore.
The Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, which led Patel quota agitation in Gujarat, will send an 11-member team to discuss its demand with state ministers at a meeting in Gandhinagar on Thursday, five days after the Gujarat government reached out to the organisation for talks.
While speaking to Rediff.com, PAAS leader Varun Patel, below, left, who is part of the delegation, warned the Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state that they will not spare anybody if the latter plays foul with their sentiments and demands.
“Bhale who phir Shah ho, ya tana Shah, hum kisi ko chhodenge nahi (Be it Amit Shah or his boss, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. We will not spare anybody),” said Varun, who will be meeting the government at 10 am at the Gandhinagar circuit house.
Though the PAAS has named the members who will attend this exploratory meeting, Patel said that they had no clue about who will represent the government.
Interestingly, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, himself a Patidar, had called on Patidar agitation leader Hardik Patel to get Patels on board for the discussions.
Varun said that neither the Patidars nor the government has any idea about the issues to be discussed on Thursday.
“We did not even ask them what was on the agenda but we have our demands which we will put forth,” Patel, who has been booked under attempt to murder charges after the agitation launched by Hardik Patel on August 25 last year turned violent as the government attempted to put down this rebellion.
“Our key demands include reservations for Patidars, withdrawal of false cases against Patidars, the appointment of a Patidar Commission that would look into the demand for reservation by the Patels, and arrest of bureaucrats and police officers under murder charges for killing 10 Patidars duirng the agitation."
Hardik, the main protagonist of the agitation is currently staying in Udaipur for six months as a bail condition in a sedition case. Hardik is slated to return to the state in January.
However, Varun categorically said that there will be no demand to withdraw sedition and murder charges against Patidars as well as Hardik in the meeting.
“Even I am charged under attempt to murder and loot. Hardik and Dineshbhai (Bhambania, Hardik’s aide) have been booked under sedition. This is not a fight for personalities. This is the fight for the community,” the Patidar leader said.
Varun said that they will ask the government for a fact sheet over its claim that 90 per cent charges against the Patidars have been withdrawn.
“Let them show us the status. They have not withdrawn case against even one Patidar,” Varun said.
When asked why were the Patidars relented and accepted the proposal to talk with the government, Varun said, “After a long time the government has called us for talks. We want to see what the government has for us.”
Calling it an 'initial meeting”, Varun said they will get Hardik on board only if some positive sentiment materialises out of the Thursday discussion.
“We can ask the government to call Hardik to Gujarat or send their representative to Udaipur,” he said.
“The government knows what we want as they have been tracking all our leaders with the help of IB (Intelligence Bureau). We also want to explore what the government thinks about our demands,” he added.
Varun said that they are going for the discussion with an open mind and wishes that the government accepts all their demands.
“We would rather go about our routine business and the government should give justice for our sacrifices too,” he said.
Denying that the overwhelming victory of the BJP in the recently concluded municipal council polls was due to the support of Patels, Varun said, “The Patidars had consciously decided not to oppose or support any political party in these elections. In the last taluka and zilla panchayat elections, we had openly asked Patidars to defeat the BJP and the party lost 23 zilla panchayats out of 28.”
“The BJP is running a government and a political party. They have absolute right to play their politics the way they want. It is our duty to fight for our community and seek justice for them. This is a fight between society and politics and we both will play our hands accordingly,” Varun said.
Though stating categorically that the Patidars have no plans to float a political party for the December 2017 assembly elections if there is no truce between the two warring factions, he reiterated his words: “If this government doesn’t give us justice then let them call Shah (BJP president Amit Shah) or tana Shah (Prime Minister Modi) from Delhi, chhodenge nahi unko (we will not spare them).”
IMAGE: Members of the Patel community display placards as they attend a protest rally in Ahmedabad. Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters