After spending nine months behind bars, quota agitation leader Hardik Patel has walked out of Lajpore jail in Surat on Friday morning, days after the Gujarat High Court granted him bail in cases of sedition and violence pertaining to Patidar stir last year.
Dressed in white and a scarf tied around his head, Patel walked into a crowd of his supporters who fed him sweets and shouted slogans. He was arrested in October when his agitation for reservation in government jobs and colleges for his Patel community turned violent.
As per the schedule released by Patidar Anamant Andolan Samiti (PAAS), Patel will travel to several places during 48 hours before leaving Gujarat for six months. HC has directed him to leave Gujarat within 48 hours after his release from jail. Moreover, he has to leave the state immediately for six months, which was a condition for his release.
"We have got some of what we want but not everything. We will first have talks with the government and ask peacefully," Patel told reporters. Patel's supporters have planned roadshows as he travels from Surat, where he was imprisoned, to his hometown Viramgam.
In an apparent reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘56-inch-chest’ remark made during 2014 election campaign, Hardik said, “I want to say that I don’t want height, weight or a 56-inch chest. All I want is rights for my community.”
“Our agitation will continue in coming days. Our demand for OBC status for Patels is still there. In coming days, there will be a change in the style of our working, but, our attitude (tevar) will remain the same,” Hardik said.
Moreover, he added, “This agitation is not a property of any political party. No party should think of taking political benefit out of this. This agitation will not stop just because I or someone else wants. It will only end when Patel community gets their right."
Besides, Hardik thanking the judiciary for his release said, “In coming days, we will take a proper decision in the interest of our community. We don’t mind if we have to sit and talk with government for arriving at a solution."
After a road show in Botad, Hardik and his supporters will visit Khodaldham temple in Rajkot district and then Umiyadham temple in Jamnagar district in evening. Both these temples are supreme bodies of Patel community.
Patel's arrest was followed by large-scale arson and violence by his supporters in some of Gujarat's biggest towns.