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Patidars to Amit Shah: ‘General Dyer Go Back’

Posters with the slogan “General Dyer Go Back” greeted Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah on Thursday when he entered Surat, after addressing a party workers’ meeting in Tapi, Gujarat. Shah was in Surat to attend a felicitation ceremony organised by Patidar Abhivadan Samaroh Samiti, an organisation with its allegiance with BJP. The Patidar community had made headlines last year in July 2015 when they embarked on an agitation, demanding quotas. With the leader of this movement, Hardik Patel, being packed off to Udaipur, the BJP would have hoped that the Patidar Abhivadan Samaroh Samiti would help paper over how the Gujarat administration had struggled to handle their resistance.

Sensing the general sense of resentment in the BJP-dominated district — 15 out of 16 members of Gujarat assembly from Surat are from BJP — the organisers had erected an iron mesh shield between the dais and the audience.  But that didn’t shield Shah from the embarrassment of being likened to General Dyer who is held responsible for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
It began with chants of ‘Hardik, Hardik’ and ‘Jai Patel, Jai Patidar’ disrupted the proceedings when Shah, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and others were on stage. Even the presence of newly-appointed BJP state chief Jitu Vaghani, himself a Patidar, couldn’t pacify the gathering. Irate supporters of Hardik Patel threw chairs at the police when they attempted to bring the situation under control.
Ultimately, the protestors had to be physically removed. Net result: the majority of the audience had left the venue. In this emptied venue, with peace restored, Shah kept his speech short (it concluding in barely six minutes).
Police detained 40 Patidars who are reportedly Hardik supporters.
Hardik’s Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) is believed to be behind the ‘General Dyer’ posters. Earlier in the day, hoardings and banners greeting Shah and CM Rupani put up the BJP werereportedly vandalised by PAAS supporters.  
This political battle overshadowed the detention of at least 80 farmers in Surat, which also largely went unreported. Farmers had gathered to organise a protest march, from a wholesale market to where Amit Shah was to speak earlier yesterday.  However, three hours before the ceremony, the farmers were picked up by the Gujarat police. Some office bearers of Gujarat Khedut Samaj were also among the detainees. They said they were held at Surat’s Puna Police Station and were released after six hours, which just happened to be an hour after Shah left Surat.
“CM Rupani has said that Gujarati khedut (farmer) have become global farmers. If that is the case then why don’t you ensure global rates for our vegetables?” Chandreshbhai Patel, a farmer who was detained told Newslaundry. Chandreshbhai, who hails from Selut village of Olapad Talluka, said that farmers like him have had to suffer from shortage of water in the last season. Now that the productivity has increased, wholesale market rates are making life difficult for them, he said.
“Cost of production [per 20 kilogram] of seasonal vegetables such as ladies finger is as high as Rs 150, while they are getting just Rs 80 to 100 as sale price,” said Gujarat Khedut Samaj secretary Sagar Rabari, another one of the detainees.
The agrarian crisis in Gujarat has been deepening in recent years. This year the state government had declared 623 villages as water scarcity-hit, out of which 527 villages were announced as semi-drought hit. The passage and enactment of the controversial Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2016, [LARR] by the government had further irked the farming community.

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