With hundreds cheering him, some holding placards saying ‘Gabbar is Back’, Patidar leader Hardik Patel on Friday emerged after nine months of confinement at Lajpore Jail to make a spirited announcement that his agitation will continue and that he did not want a “56-inch chest, but rights for my community”.
The 23-year-old Patel leader, after stepping out of the jail, told reporters that he has vowed to continue his agitation to get reservation for his community under the OBC quota.
In a clear reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ’56-inch-chest’ remark made during the 2014 election campaign, Hardik said: “I want to say that I don’t want height, weight or a 56-inch chest. All I want is rights for my community”.
“Our agitation will continue. Our demand for OBC status for the Patels is still there. In the coming days, there will be a change in the style of our working, but our attitude (tevar) will remain the same,” he asserted.
Hardik was released after the Gujarat High Court granted him bail in two sedition and one arson-related cases that were slapped when he led a mass agitation demanding job quotas for the Patel community.
His bail was approved on the condition that he stays out of Gujarat for six months, and for three months after that in another case. Going by the high court orders, Hardik will have to leave Gujarat within 48 hours of his release from jail.
Before he embarked on a roadshow through the Surat city, he warned all political parties against taking political benefits out of the agitation.
Addressing them through the media, Hardik said: “This agitation is not a property of any political party. No party should think of taking political benefit out of this.”
“This agitation will not stop just because I or someone else wants. It will only end when Patel community gets their rights.”
However, he clarified that he would remain open for discussion with the state government over the Patel issue.
“In the next six months, we will talk with the government. Our demand is still the same, which is reservation under the OBC quota. When time comes, we will analyse what we have lost and what we have achieved during the agitation and then respond in a proper manner,” he said.
“In the coming days, we will take a proper decision in the interest of our community. We don’t mind if we have to sit and talk with the government for arriving at a solution,” he said, as he thanked the judiciary for his release.
He said the 10 per cent quota for the economically weaker sections announced by the state government under the unreserved category was still not enough.
“We indeed want to fully utilise whatever we have received (from the government) till now. But we have not got the OBC status for the community. We will first request the government to give it. We will be courteous and may also sit with government to solve this issue,” he said.
Hardik also spoke of scaling up his agitation to the national level by the taking along the Kurmi community which is in a good number in Uttar Prades and is equivalent to the Patels back home.
“We will also involve our Kurmi community in this agitation and try to get our rights,” he said.
Hardik, who had spearheaded the agitation for quota, was arrested in October last year three months after he launched it in July.
He is expected to cover 2,150 km in the next 48 hours, addressing 12 public meetings, seven roadshows and two major rallies, PAAS spokesperson Brijesh Patel said.
“He will roughly address 1.5 million people in these two days in Surat, Rajkot, Botad and Viramgam, his hometown,” Brijesh Patel said.