The agitation by Patels for reservation was genuine and is genuine. About 80 per cent the Patels in Gujarat are farmers. They are 20 per cent of the total 6.5 crore population in the State. When they ask for reservation, arguments are made that they are well to do community, which is contrary to the actual condition. Demand for reservation to Patels is not politically driven. The community genuinely needs it.
Keeping in view the poor condition of Patels, the strategy to seek reservation for the community was basically devised by a group of people including Hardik Patel and Lalji Patel in 2012. I had also attended that meeting. After that we, after consultation with the community, raised the matter before the government. More than one thousand letters have been written to Central government from 2012 to 2015 apprising it of the actual condition of Patels. But we got nothing, but assurances from the government. Signature campaigns were also conducted by us on this issue, which got the support of lakhs of people. When we started organising big rallies to raise this demand, the media and the governments started taking note of it. We were raising our demands peacefully. But under a political conspiracy, the buses were burnt during the agitation. Some people were even killed. None from the Patel community was involved in that violence.
Now Hardik Patel, Chiarag Desai and Vipul Desai are in jail. We have full faith in the judiciary and hope they would get bail soon. But the way Gujarat government is trying to pressurise Patels is causing anguish. The government can snatch their rights by using the pressure tactics, but we shall continue to raise our demands. Till now only politics has been done with Patels on this issue. The government is playing with our sentiments. It has agreed to the demand of Jats in Haryana. This has given us new energy. We have also developed the hope that our demand too will be accepted one day. If the government is ready to extend reservation benefits to Jats in Haryana, it should extend it to the Patels also. If Jats can get reservation in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh, Gurjars can also get reservation, then why not the Patels in Gujarat?
Our women conference at Mehsana on February 28 will devise the further strategy on the issue. We hope the government will have to accept our demand one day. Varun Patel, Convener, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti