Hundreds of Patidars on Thursday kicked up a ruckus in Surat at a public meeting meant to showcase the BJP’s support of the Patel community, compelling BJP president Amit Shah to cut short his speech. Police used lathis and tear gas to quell violence.
Despite large deployment of police and paramilitary forces, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) supporters sported saffron caps and barged into the venue where legislators of the Patel community were to be felicitated by Shah and Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani.
Belying the organisers’ claim that lakhs of Patels would attend the function, hardly about 10,000 turned up amid heavy police deployment while over 500 supporters of PAAS, led by BJP dissident MLA Nalin Kotadia, laid virtual siege on the location and prevented people from reaching.
Police used lathis and burst tear gas shells to disperse the PAAS supporters.
PAAS supporters started raising slogans like “Jai Sardar, Jai Patidar” and hurled chairs as soon as Shah and Rupani came on the stage.
Both the BJP leaders cut short their speeches to a couple of minutes as a result of the bedlam. Shah, ironically, said, “The Patidars were the backbone of the growth of Gujarat and the BJP.”
Earlier, a life-size cutout of Shah, put up outside the venue, was damaged by the PAAS supporters. Police took into custody over 100 people, including PAAS district convenors.
The felicitation of Patel community legislators was organised by some local businessmen to express confidence in the BJP government.
PAAS supporters, who roamed around the venue preventing people from attending the function, pelted stones at the policemen deployed to provide security to Shah and other leaders of the BJP.
The PAAS protesters also damaged a couple of state transport buses in the Patel-dominated Varachha Road area. State transport buses were withdrawn and diverted to other routes.
The Surat collector ordered the closure of mobile internet services in and around the city as a precaution to prevent the spread of rumours through social media.