Hardik Patel
In picture: Hardik Patel.IANS File Photo

Hardik Patel, the leader of the Patel quota movement, has been sentenced by the Visnagar court in Gujarat on Wednesday to two years in jail for inciting violence in the 2015 Mehsana riots.

In a case filed by BJP legislator Rushikesh Patel, Hardik Patel along with his two associates Lalji Patel and Ambalal Patel have been found guilty of inciting violence during a protest by the Patidar community in Mehsana, which led to the vandalising of the BJP legislator's office.

The trio has been fined Rs. 50,000 each and sentenced to two years in jail for their role in the riots under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including sedation. The case was filed against 17 individuals, but the court has let 14 go due to lack of evidence.

As soon as the verdict was announced, Patel's lawyer moved the court for a bail plea. The court said they would hear the plea since Patel had been handed a sentence less than three years and was hence eligible for bail. 

During the protest at Mehsana, Patel's speeches led the incident to turn violent with the protestors storming and vandalising  BJP legislator Rushikesh Patel's office in Visnagar. Following the incident, the Gujarat High Court barred him from entering the district but lifted the ban ahead of the assembly elections last year.

There are multiple other cases against the leader filed in Gujarat, where he has been accused of forcing entry and destroying public property. The latest case was filed last year by a BJP councillor from Ramol in Ahmedabad, who alleged that Patel forced his way into the compound of BJP leader Paresh Patel.

Hardik Patel has responded saying all the cases against him are a political vendetta by the ruling BJP government. With his arrest, the spotlight will be on the BJP, since the Patel community forms a majority of the party's voter base in Gujarat. 

Patel formed the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) with an aim of getting Patels included in the OBC quota.