New Delhi/Ahmedabad: The agitation for quotas for Patels in government jobs and educational institutions will be expanded to other states and include castes like Kurmis and Gujjars, Hardik Patel, who led the stir that plunged Gujarat into violence said on Sunday.
"Whatever has happened in Gujarat, we want to take it to the national level and there are (people of) around 12 states who are connected to us," 22-year-old Patel, leader of the upper caste Patidar community, which wants to muscle its way to the quota list, told journalists in Delhi.
Patel, who met some leaders of the Kurmi, Koeri and Gujjar communities among others with whom he said the Patidars of Gujarat had kinship, said the agitation for reservation was "a marathon and not a 100-metre race", which had to be run over 1-2 years.
Kurmis and Koeris, about whom Patel talked, already figure in reservation list in key Hindi heartland states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which also has Gujjars in that category.
The firebrand young Patel leader of Gujarat, whose photographs brandishing a gun had been published in some national dailies a few days ago, had led a massive rally of his castemen in Ahmedabad on August 25 to seek quotas for them.
His detention was followed by widespread violence which claimed 10 lives, including that of a police constable, forcing the rare deployment of the army to bring the situation under control.
"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 of our community together who 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 there is the need to show the muscle power of the community, we will do. Whenever required, they (these communities) will block the highways," Patel told a news conference at the Delhi Press Club.
"We intend to organise a mega rally in Lucknow, at Jantar Mantar in Delhi.... We will give a call to the Patels of India (to join the movement)," he said.
Patel favoured reservation for the poor belonging to all communities as he denounced caste-based quotas.
"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," he said.
Hardik Patel also lashed out at the Gujarat Police for its action during the agitation and said he will be holding a mega-rally in Madhya Pradesh tomorrow against it.
Noting that while there was too much talk of the Gujarat model, no such thing existed in the state where, Patel claimed, 8900 farmers, all Patels, had committed suicide.
"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) to 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 salesmen," he said.
Later, addressing a function where he was felicitated, Patel said only 465 peple from his community got Class I, II and III government jobs in Gujarat in the last ten years.
"They (Supreme Court and government) say that they cannot give reservation beyond 50 per cent. It is written there in the Constitution but in which Constitution it is written that a court can open for a terrorist at 3.30 am.
"The Constitution should change for all of us. If reservation is given amicably, we will accept it otherwise we know how to snatch it," he said.
During his stay in the national capital today, Patel held meetings with Akhil Bhartiya Kurmi Kshatriya Mahasabha chief Pam Prasad Chaudhary, Akhil Bhartiya Chaudhary Anjana Samiti president Deeparam Patel and General Secretary of Rashtriya Lok Samata Party general secretary Akhilesh Katiyar, a Kurmi leader from UP. He also met some leaders of the Akhil Bhartiya Gujjar Mahasabha. RSLP chief Upendra Kushwaha, a Koeri leader from Bihar, is a Minister of State in the Modi government.
BJP MP from Sitapur in Uttar Pradesh Rajesh Verma was said to have initially booked a place in North Avenue, quarters meant for MPs and their guests visiting Delhi, for Patel's press conference but the venue was later shifted to the press club. Verma later said an aide of his had booked the place without his knowledge and, when he came to know of it, he got it cancelled.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi even today expressed pain at Gujarat violence during his monthly radio programme 'Mann Ki Baat'.
"We do not challenge any one. We have no fight with anyone. We are not opposed to SC, ST and OBC and we are also not opposed to BJP, Samajwadi Party or Aam Admi Party.
"If we did not get our right, no matter who rules us, (Narendra) Modi or (Arvind) Kejriwal, we will continue our fight," Patel said.
Hardik Patel, however, faced opposition from a section of Gujjar leaders during his felicitation at Kotla's Gujjar Bhawan.
Also Read: Hardik Patel heckled at Gujjar felicitation
A Gujjar leader Rajendra Mawi, claiming to be the president of Akhil Bhartiya Gujjar Mahasangh, interrupted Patel's speech, accusing him of extending support to the Jats' demand for reservation. Mawi was finally pushed and shoved out of the hall.
"We are opposed to him and we are not with him. How can we support him when he is also supporting the demand for Jat reservation," Mawi said.
He said the reservation for Jats had been struck down by the court on the petitions filed by different OBC communities including Gujjars and now Patel was supporting their demand.
Referring to political dominance of Patels, Mawa said that they should talk to the Anandiben Patel government in Gujarat and Modi Government for fulfilment of their demand.
"In Gujarat Patels ran governments in the past and even now they have a Patel chief minister. At the Centre too Gujrat has a say and they should talk with the state government and Centre," he said.
Gujjars and Jats have been traditional rivals in several states of the Hindi heartland.
Meanwhile, the last rites of Swetang Patel, a young man from the community, who had died in police custody after being picked up during the violence, were performed in Ahmedabad in tight security.
To prevent any fresh outbreak of violence, around 600 personnel from local police, State Reserve Police (SRP), Rapid Action Force (RAF) and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were stationed along the 1-km route from 32-year-old Swetang's house to the crematorium in Lila Nagar area as a precautionary measure.
Hardik Patel, who is the convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, gave Swetang's funeral a miss as he flew to Delhi. Patel said he was in Delhi after having met the deceased's mother "who told me my son is dead now but you should not allow the agitation to lose steam".
A second post mortem had to be performed on Swetang following a Gujarat High Court order on a petition moved by his mother Prabhaben Patel. The fresh autopsy concluded he had died from severe head injury. The court had then said it was a prima facie case of homicidal death and ordered a CID probe.