An uneasy calm prevailed in Gujarat on Thursday after two days of violence during the OBC quota stir of Patel community even as death toll rose to 10 and a defiant Hardik Patel vowed to intensify the agitation.
Notwithstanding appeals for peace by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief MinisterAnandiben Patel, 22-year-old Hardik, who is spearheading the agitation, on Thursday upped the ante asking farmers of his community not to supply essential commodities like vegetables and milk to cities and support the demand for reservation in jobs and education under OBC quota.
He also demanded compensation of Rs 35 lakh each for the families of his community members who died in the violence.
The issue rocked the Gujarat Assembly while Congress MLAs who tried to raise it were suspended.
The Army, which has been deployed since Wednesday, conducted flag marches in Ahmedabad to instill confidence among the people in the wake of the violence. The Army has been also deployed in Surat and Mehasana.
Rail traffic remained disrupted today as protesters have uprooted tracks in at least eight places, a senior official said.
"No untoward incidents were reported from the entire Ahmedabad district today. Government and private offices, business establishments, shopping complexes and shops remained open," District Collector Rajkumar Beniwal told reporters.
"(Road) traffic is normal as well. Situation is under control and peace is prevailing in the city." Beniwal said five companies of Army (over 500 personnel) conducted flag march in the areas worst affected by the violence.
Curfew has been lifted from Surat city after no untoward incident was reported from there since Wednesday night.
“We have withdrawn curfew from two areas in Surat from 8 am. There is normalcy and peace in the city. Shops are open, people went for their businesses, factories are open. Our officials are present in various areas and police patrolling is continuing," Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana said.
All Congress MLAs present in the Assembly, barring Opposition Leader Shankarsinh Vaghela, were suspended for a day as the House witnessed ruckus over the quota agitation by Patels. Earlier, the House was adjourned three times by the Speaker.
A man from Nikol area of Ahmedabad city identified as Manish Valadia, who was injured during violence, died in a private hospital on Thursday, police officials said, taking the toll to 10.
Ahmedabad has recorded five deaths in the Patel quota agitation, one each was reported from Surat (where a Police Constable was killed) and Patan districts and 3 persons lost their lives in Banaskantha district.
Curfew was also lifted in Rajkot and Patan districts, where situation is becoming normal after witnessing widespread violence for two days which had paralysed the normal lives.
Rail traffic was disrupted in the state and several trains were cancelled as protestors have damaged railway tracks at eight places, Western railway spokesperson Pradeep Sharma said.
At least 55 trains including Rajdhani Express from Ahmedabad to Delhi were cancelled on Thursday due to the agitation, while operation of 26 others were partially affected, said a statement from Western Railwys PRO.
Besides, routes of 15 trains were diverted out of the state due to the Patel agitation, it added.
Meanwhile, state high court issued notices to police and state government after taking strong note of CCTV footage showing policemen in uniform vandalising cars in one of the housing societies of Sola area here during violence on August 25.
The court ordered the police commissioner to conduct a probe and submit a report within two weeks into allegations that policemen opened fire in air and damaged property to create terror during the stir.
"First, suspend those policemen who were involved in atrocities on our people and give a compensation of Rs 35 lakh to our children who have become martyrs in this movement," Hardik told reporters while replying to a query on his demand from the state government.
"I will urge my farmer brothers not to supply vegetables and milk and do not come out to provide essential items in cities," Hardik said, adding that they will intensify their movement till their OBC quota demand is accepted.
"We live peacefully, but if they (police) will attack us, we will never leave them," he said.
When asked who was responsible for the violence in Gujarat, Hardik said, "The police, the state government and some anti-social elements."
"This agitation ran for 55 days peacefully, but when 20 lakh people of Patel community gathered at GMDC ground, they (the state government) instigated violence on that day as they did not want us to make the headlines of the newspapers," he alleged.
"The way police committed atrocities on our youths and sisters, it reminds me of the Jallianwala Bagh incident...They acted like General Dyre here," he said, accusing the state police of storming his rally venue and beating up people there.
Hardik, the convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, has been spearheading the movement of reservation for Patels under Other Backward Classes.
On a three-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, Rahul Gandhi on Thursday targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the violence in Gujarat, saying it was a repercussion of the "politics of anger" pursued by the BJP leader.
"Our Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi is doing politics of anger and such politics has repercussions for the country which you are seeing in Gujarat," the Congress Vice President told reporters after addressing a farmers' rally at a village in Pampore town, 25 km from Srinagar.
Stepping up the offensive, Congress lashed out at the chief minister and BJP for pushing the state into a "fire of reckless violence...and complete lawlessness".
It blamed the prime minister and the Anandiben Patel government for "failure" to handle the situation arising out of the quota agitation which led to "complete breakdown of law and order" in the state.
The Gujarat government and BJP have pushed the state into a "fire of reckless violence...and complete lawlessness", the party's chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala told reporters in Delhi.
On whether the BJP-run state has become a "fit case" for imposition of President's rule, Surjewala said, "Gujarat CLP made the demand for removal of the chief minister on Wednesday.
There is complete breakdown of law and order and the chief minister is unable.....to handle the situation. I will reserve my comments. We will look at the situation in the next few days."