'In the last ten days a mastermind has emerged who is misleading him and using him like a pawn. We made Hardik the face of this agitation. Hardik was the smallest mohra in this agitation.'
'The mastermind is doing Hardik's makeover. He is increasing his face value. But this is helping us in pushing forth for our demands. Because Hardik's face value is increasing, our agitation is benefiting. What is the motive of this mastermind in doing what he is doing is a different issue.'
Chief spokesperson of the Sardar Patel Group, the parent organisation spearheading the Patidar agitation to demand reservations, and the man in charge of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, Varun Patel, below, left, tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com that efforts are being made to use Hardik Patel, the 22-year-old face of this agitation, by other players, but he is confident of securing their demand through a peaceful agitation.
Are you planning an economic blockade of Ahmedabad? I received a message from Hardik's number that appeals to the Patidars to stop supplying essential items like milk and vegetables to various cities.
There are also talks of Patidars planning to withdraw Rs 50,000 each from the banking system simultaneously to further pressurise the demands of Patidars for reservations under OBC quota.
You are also demanding Rs 30 lakh (Rs 3 million) as compensation for those who were killed in the police firing. Is this true?
It happened by mistake. It was an old message. I have spoken with him (Hardik) and there is no such instruction from SPG or PAAS to Patidars. I told him if this message was circulated intentionally or unintentionally, he should stop it.
We will stick to our demand for Rs 30 lakh compensation for those who died in police firing.
Why did Hardik send such a message? Is there a problem between Hardik and the SPG?
We are unable to meet each other right now and we are not able to hold long meetings over the phone. If you want Hardik's personal view, then please call him.
There is no difference of opinion between the SPG's and PAAS's views. I spoke to him just now and asked him to stop circulating these messages if he has done it intentionally.
Hardik told me that it must have happened unintentionally and he will withdraw this message.
I have not spoken to him clearly about it, but I have told him to stop circulating such messages. I think that that message was unintentional and I have clarified it with him that our target now should be maintaining peace in Gujarat under any circumstances.
Both Hardik and I are members of the SPG. Earlier I was the head of the Mandal taluka and during this agitation I was appointed chief spokesperson of the SPG and in charge of the PAAS.
Why then are the SPG and Hardik speaking and acting in different ways?
When it comes to the welfare of Patidars then there is no difference between me, Hardik or any other member of the community.
Ours is a big community. Everybody is sane, wise and educated. So, we could have differences as far as opinions go, but our hearts are united. We could have different views on some issues, particularly on a couple of decisions. But it is wrong to assume that we are at loggerheads over all the decisions we make.
When Hardik declared his fast from the GMDC ground and said that the chief minister should come to the ground and accept their petition it was a unilateral one. He did not discuss this decision with anybody from the SPG. He could have taken that decision in excitement.
The entire Patidar community has disassociated itself with Hardik's decision. The Patidar community is of the view that this is Hardik's personal decision. Officially, the SPG and PAAS do not support Hardik's decision to fast until the CM comes personally to accept our petition.
While I have been very busy and we have not been able to connect with each other when I managed to speak with him on Wednesday (August 26) I told him that under no situation should he act in a manner that would further vitiate the climate in Gujarat.
But like the entire Patidar community Hardik is very angry at the way the police tried to put down our agitation.
What did the police do?
The police abused our sisters and mothers; they beat their husbands in front of them.
At about 8, 8.30 pm on Tuesday (August 25) the police surrounded the (GMDC) ground from all sides. Then they switched off the electricity connection to the ground. They also disconnected the supply from the generators.
After that the police attacked the crowds like wild beasts without taking cognisance of the presence of women, children or elders before showering lathis on them.
Such irresponsible behaviour has no place in civil society or any democracy. This animal-like beating led to the crowds getting agitated and they immediately communicated this police attack to their friends and relatives via SMS and WhatsApp.
I don't see involvement of Patidars in the violence that gripped Gujarat since Tuesday. This is pre-planned and I sincerely suspect that the state machinery is engineering this violence.
Who do you mean by the state machinery?
Minister of State for Home Rajni Patel and Chief Minister Anandiben Patel (who is also the home minister) are saying that they have not ordered the lathi charge and were unaware of this act.
Then, is the Gujarat police taking orders from the Andhra Pradesh or Karnataka government?
And through such statements if the minister of state for home is conveying that the state's police are not in his control then he should resign immediately and the government should appoint a new minister who can control the police department.
If the police are acting without orders from the home minister too then the state government must suspend 8,000 policemen who were present there. We have been appealing since this morning that peace and law and order should be maintained under any circumstance. These are anti-social elements inciting violence egged by the state government.
Why was there an increase in the security detail of the chief minister and Rajni Patel at 2 pm on Tuesday? Did they already know that there was going to be violence?
So, would you appeal Hardik to call of his fast? If yes, then how do you plan to press for your demands to get reservations?
As I told you earlier, this action of Hardik has no support among the Patidars and the SPG. Arakshan toh chahiye hi chahiye aur woh hum lekar hi rahenge. Yeh toh bohat spasht baat hai (We want reservations and we will achieve our goal any which way we can). There are no differences of opinion here and we will fight for our rights peacefully.
Why is Hardik taking such decisions on his own?
In the last ten days a 'mastermind' has emerged who is misleading him and using him like a pawn. We made Hardik the face of this agitation. Hardik was the smallest mohra (pawn) in this agitation that we promoted.
But when this game went into the hands of the media and someone badly managed the media as well as Hardik.
While this 'mastermind' has made Hardik into a star, he is being misused. We are unable to find who this mastermind is and neither are we interested in knowing who this person is.
Whoever he is, Hardik has benefited from it and through Hardik the SPG and PAAS have benefited.
This agitation is not because of Hardik but because of the SPG and because of the intense resentment the Patidars are nursing for a long time.
The crowds gathered at the SPG ground were spontaneous. No single person or organisation has the potential to get so many people out in the streets. Be it Hardik or I or Lalbhai (the senior SPG leader).
Considering what you are saying there seems to be serious differences between the SPG and Hardik? Are you in agreement with the way this agitation is being taken over by Hardik?
The difference was limited to only two issues: Remaining stubborn in calling Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel to accept our petition on the GMDC ground and sitting on hunger strike unilaterally and in anger. Except these two, all decisions we took were unanimous. That was the only wrong decision he took, we feel.
Otherwise, every other matter was done by consultation. Else, we would not have succeeded in getting so many people out in the streets.
Although you say that Hardik is being controlled, you are also denying that there is a split between the SPG and Hardik. How does one reconcile to these two statements?
The mastermind is doing Hardik's makeover. He is increasing his face value. But this is helping us in pushing forth our demands. Because Hardik's face value is increasing, our agitation is benefiting.
What is the motive of this mastermind in doing what he is doing is a different issue.
Then by implication you mean that this 'mastermind' is wishing good for the Patidar community?
I am not sure if he wishes us well or ill. But whatever this person's intention and whatever he is doing after emerging on the scene, till today that has only helped us. Credit must go to him too.
Hardik must thank this 'mastermind' for increasing his face value. We don't need such masterminds.