Mehsana: A massive rally of the Patel community at Mehsana town in Gujarat demanding reservation and release of their jailed leaders on Sunday turned violent as police used lathicharge and fired teargas shells on the agitators who allegedly engaged in stone-pelting.
Patel protesters had gathered at Modhera crossroad as part of the `Jail Bharo' agitation announced by the Sardar Patel Group (SPG), one of the prominent groups seeking OBC quota for the Patel community.
SPG chief Lalji Patel received head injury during the face-off with the police.
While the police claimed they resorted to lathicharge only after some persons started throwing stones at the police vehicles, Lalji Patel alleged that Patel agitators were targeted without any provocation.
"Our protest was peaceful as announced earlier. However, police suddenly hit me and some of our members when we were walking ahead of the procession. I was hit on head. You can see the blood on my face. We were beaten up without any provocation," said Patel, who along with some other agitators were detained by the police subsequently.
In-charge DGP of Gujarat PP Pandey claimed the situation deteriorated only after some people resorted to violence.
"Police always work to establish peace. The gathering was peaceful initially. However, the situation deteriorated only after some persons resorted to violence and damaged property. I have already sent additional force to handle the situation," Pandey said.
Meanwhile, SPG as well as Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) have given a call for `Gujarat Bandh' on Monday.
"Our Patel brothers were brutally beaten up during the peaceful rally today. Lalji and few other SPG leaders received grievous injuries in the police lathicharge. We condemn this use of excessive force by police and have given a call for Gujarat bandh tomorrow (Monday)," said SPG spokesperson Purvin Patel, adding that PAAS too supported tomorrow's bandh.
Thousands of Patel community members gathered at Modhera crossroad on the outskirts of the city on Sunday to court arrest on a mass scale, pressing for reservation and release of Hardik Patel and three of his aides who are in jail.
Large number of police, with water canons and teargas shell guns, were already deployed at the crossroad.
"Police first used the water canon to disperse the mob, as the mob attacked some police vehicles. Teargas shells were also fired as the mob started throwing stones. It also set ablaze some private vehicles. The operation to control the situation is still on," said a police control room official.
Health Minister and spokesperson of the Gujarat Government Nitin Patel appealed to the protesters to maintain peace.
"Patel leaders (Lalji Patel and others) had earlier promised that even if he is arrested, others will stage peaceful protest. However, violence took place after some people incited others. I appeal to them to maintain peace as all the problems can be solved through dialogue," the minister said.