Modi calls for calm after Patel protests in Gujarat

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urges people of Gujarat to preserve peace after night of caste-related violence

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Curfew is enacted in parts of Ahmedabad, August 26, 2015

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged people in the northwestern state of Gujarat to keep calm following the announcement of a curfew inteded to control caste-related unrest.

“Violence had never done good for anyone," the Prime Minister said.

The Indian Goverment rushed 5,000 paramilitary personnel to Gujarat after overnight violence by demonstrators demanding the reservation of jobs for the Patel community forced authorities to enforce curfew in several areas and close educational institutions, officials said on Wednesday.

The violence erupted after the leader of the movement, 22-year-old Hardik Patel, was briefly detained by Gujarat Police following a rally attended by nearly half a million people.

Hardik called for a state-wide shutdown on Wednesday to press his demands.

Police said violent protesters attacked security personnel overnight with stones and sticks and burned government and private vehicles. No casualties from the attacks were reported.

A curfew was imposed in several places, including Mehsana city, parts of Surat city and Unjha and Visnagar towns, and educational institutions were closed. Troopers from the State Reserve Police Force, BSF, and Rapid Action Force were deployed in cities such as Ahmedabad and Mehsana.

The Patel caste is economically and politically powerful but the protesters say quotas for lower castes put them at a disadvantage.

The Patels, which make up 20 percent of the population of Gujarat, control most of India's diamond cutting and polishing industry and are among the most prosperous businessmen and farmers in the country.

However, they complain that they are denied college places due to positive discrimination practices benefiting those below them in India's complex social structure.

The Patels wish to benefit from affirmative action and classification as Other Backward Classes - the castes in the middle of the Hindu caste hierarchy who do not face so much exclusion in society but being socially and economically disadvantaged - in order to be entitled to quotas in state-run education centers and government jobs.

There have been reports of violent actions by security forces which used batons to disperse thousands of people. Protesters destroyed cars and threw stones as members of the Patel community clashed with people from lower castes.

Hardik Patel said, "The police have assaulted members of my community and behaved like terrorists. We will carry out our movement peacefully. I am asking my supporters to fast in support of our cause."

TRTWorld and agencies