The Patidar Arakshan Andolan Samiti (PASS) has called for a statewide shutdown in Gujarat on Wednesday. The move came after the arrest of PASS convener Hardik Patel yesterday which attracted a huge protest in the state.
Demanding reservations in jobs and education for Patel community, a mega-rally was held in Ahmadabad on Tuesday after which Hardik was arrested by police with charges of protesting without permission. He was soon released after the Patidars’ community started a violent agitation across the state. He then appealed for peace and restraint and said that the protest will last till the demands are not fulfilled.
The rally with around 1.20 million Patidars turned into a sudden hunger strike at GDMC ground gate in which Hardik gave an ultimatum of 48 hours to the government to accept their demands. When the police took action, the protest turned into an aggressive fray in which protesters started attacking public and private properties. Buses and vehicles were set on fire and buildings were damaged. Curfew was imposed soon in the area.
The shutdown will result in heavy public inconvenience and loss of revenue. Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel has also appealed for maintaining peace in the state through a video message.
Indian police on Tuesday fired tear gas and water cannons to halt and scatter a march by thousands of protesting farmers heading for the capital New Delhi to demand better prices for their produce.
Reeling from a crash in commodity prices, more than 50,000 farmers from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, a top producer of wheat and cane, blocked part of the main highway to the capital.
They also sought loan waivers, cheaper power and tougher action to get sugar mills to pay dues owed for their cane, as discontent in rural areas turns to anger against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who faces tough general elections next year.
“Despite our repeated requests, the government has failed to help farmers in any meaningful ways,” a farm leader, Dharmendra Malik, told Reuters by telephone from the protest site.
“Left with no choice, we’ve decided to march to Delhi to highlight our plight.”
Cash-strapped sugar companies owe cane growers about 135 billion rupees ($1.9 billion) in the current season. Saddled with huge piles of sugar and hit by a fall in prices, mills have said they are unable to pay farmers on time.
“The state government has initiated a number of steps to help farmers, including a clutch of measures to expedite cane payments to growers,” Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath told video news agency ANI, a Reuters affiliate.
Mills are struggling to export sugar because of lower global prices, Adityanath said.
Television broadcast images of angry farmers clashing with police and driving their tractors into security barriers, in a protest that disrupted rush-hour traffic.
Some farmers were injured when police fired tear gas and water cannon to keep protesters from breaking through barricades to reach New Delhi, the site of events to mark the birth anniversary of India’s apostle of non violence, Mahatma Gandhi.
“It’s ironical that the farmers were brutally beaten on the day of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary,” opposition leader Rahul Gandhi said.
Farmers had started trickling into the city late on Monday, prompting authorities to bar gatherings of more than four people.
The government has allowed police to “brutally beat up” the farmers, said the opposition Congress party, which ruled India for most of its 70 years since independence from Britain, before losing power to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.