At least eight people, including a policeman, have been killed and over 100 people injured in Gujarat in the last two days after a statewide shutdown called by the convener of Patidar Arakshan Andolan Samiti Hardik Patel took a violent turn.
While five people died on Tuesday night during rioting, two others were killed in police firing in north Gujarat's Palanpur city on Wednesday. The police constable, who had sustained injuries during the clashes, died later, NDTV reports.
Schools and colleges remain closed for a second day on Thursday.
Schools and colleges to remain closed in Ahmedabad today
— ANI (@ANI_news) August 27, 2015
The statewide bandh turned violent after Hardik was arrested on Tuesday night for refusing to vacate Ahmedabad's GMDC ground, where he held the Kranti rally. His arrest enraged his supporters, who then clashed with the police. Although Hardik was released within a few hours, the situation could not be brought under control.
Heavy security has been put in place in the severely affected regions. State RPF, Rapid Action Force (RAF) and Border Security Force (BSF) along with Gujarat Police tried controlling the agitators in various cities, including Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Jamnagar, Morbi, Vadodara, Mehsana and Banaskantha, IANS reports.
FLASH: Army deployed at Surat, Rajkot and Mehsana of Gujarat
— ANI (@ANI_news) August 27, 2015
The Indian Army and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were called after fresh clashes broke out on Wednesday. Curfew, which was imposed on Tuesday night, remained in effect in areas under the jurisdiction of nine police stations even on Wednesday night.
The army and paramilitary forces carried out flag marches in riot-hit areas of the state, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, Congress president and vice president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, and some top leaders appealed to maintain peace.
Modi appealed to the Patidars to shun violence and resolve the issue of reservation through talks.
"Since yesterday, the type of atmosphere that is building up in the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel, the manner in which violence is being used as a tool... we all know that violence serves no purpose," The Indian Express quoted Modi as saying on Wednesday.
"We have always believed that the development of the state is possible only if we all walk together and stay united. It is my appeal to my brothers and sisters that the occasion calls for a single mantra — 'peace'. Each and every issue can be resolved through talks," Modi said.
"We all should follow the spirit of democracy. We must work together to solve problems through talks and to contribute in efforts to take Gujarat to new heights. This is my humble request to all the brothers and sisters of Gujarat," he added.
The rally and demands
Hardik Patel, a 22-year-old youth who has been leading the Patidar agitators across the state for the last 57 days, seeks reservation for the Patel community under OBC (Other Backward Class) quota.
He carried out a Kranti rally on Tuesday with the support of thousands of people from the community. During the rally, he threatened the Modi-led BJP government that if their demands are not met, then the party will not witness a victory in the next assembly elections.
"In the next (Gujarat) election in 2017, the lotus (BJP symbol) will not bloom if our needs are not met," Hardik had said. Hardik challenged the BJP in the state, where it enjoys a stronghold and which is the home state of Prime Minister Modi.
Modi, a BJP leader, served as the Chief Minister of Gujarat for over a decade before becoming the Prime Minister.