AHMEDABAD — Deployment of the army in Gujarat curtailed violence from spiralling further, but the state has remained tense. The death toll climbed to nine, after members of the Patel community clashed with security forces yesterday.
No fresh outbreaks of violence were reported today. The army has enforced curfew in capital Ahmedabad, and other major cities of the state including Surat, Rajkot, Jamnagar, and Visnagar.
Mobile internet services such as WhatsApp continue to remain suspended to prevent people from organising large gatherings.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who served three terms as chief minister of the state before winning the general elections in 2013, had appealed for peace after the Patel community went on rampage. They were protesting the arrest of Hardik Patel, a 22-year old, who has galvanised the community into demanding reservations in the Other Backward Castes category.
The Patels, however, are not economically or socially disadvantaged, and members of the community have served as chief ministers and in other influential political positions, including Keshubhai Patel, who was in power before Modi. There has been speculation that politicians opposed to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party helped Hardik Patel organise the massive rally in Ahmedabad, where an estimated 5 lakh people were in attendance.
Patel was later released by the police, but by then violence had spread to multiple cities. Before the army trooped in, the local police was being assisted by 5,000 paramilitary personnel who had rushed in to contain the violence. Five columns of army (75 personnel each) were deployed in Ahmedabad last night, while two each have been deployed in Surat, Mehsana and Rajkot, army officials said today.
A constable of Chowk Bazaar police station, Dilip Rathore, who was injured in clashes with protesters in Dabholi area, succumbed at a private hospital, taking the toll in the violence to nine. Six people were killed in firing by police and paramilitary forces, while two others died after being injured in clashes.
On Tuesday night, rampaging mobs had damaged bus stations, set on fire vehicles and also attacked the office of Union Minister of State for Agriculture, Mohan Kundaria, in Rajkot.
Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi has attacked Modi for being divisive. "Narendra Modi believes in divisive politics. He believes in ruling the country by dividing it," Gandhi said in a speech in Pulwama district of Jammu & Kashmir, where he is on a three-day visit.