Accused in case of rioting and arson, PAAS members’ surrender mission fails in absence of the investigating officer
Patidar agitation leader Hardik Patel and 13 of his supporters who reached the Ahmedabad Crime Branch on Monday to sur render in the rioting and arson case registered by BJP corporator from Vastral were turned away as the investigating officer was out of town.The Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) had on Sunday announced that he along with 13 others, who were named in the FIR, will surrender before the crime branch on Monday. He was also supposed to appear before the crime branch on Monday as part of his bail condition in the sedition case registered in Ahmedabad.

“As part of his bail condition, he is supposed to appear before us every Monday. Since Ramol police had also registered a case against him recently, which was later transferred to the crime branch, Hardik asked us to arrest him and others. However, since the IO of that case is out of station, we told them that we will do it later,“ Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) B C Solanki said.

Hardik and his supporters reached the crime branch office at 10.30am. Af ter signing the register, the youth leader started walking further into the office in a bid to surrender, when he was stopped by senior police officials who informed him that no action would be taken against him in absence of the IO.

Sources said, “A senior police officer put his hand on Hardik’s shoulder and guided him out of the building. Thereafter, all Assistant Commissioner of Police level officers left the premises. Joint Commissioner of Police J K Bhatt had left the building 15 minutes before Hardik arrived at 10.30am.“ On March 20, Ramol police lodged a rioting and arson case against Hardik and 59 other Patel quota agitators for creating ruckus outside the house of BJP corporator from Vastral in the city, Paresh Patel. Ramol police have arrested 13 persons till date in connection with the case. Later, the probe was transferred to City Crime Branch, said Ramol PI, Paresh Solanki.

`Will not be intimidated’

While coming out of crime branch office after signing the register, Hardik said he will not get intimidated by “new cases“ filed against him. “The govern ment cannot stop me from raising my voice by filing new cases or putting me behind bars again. My fight will continue. Even if the BJP wins the upcoming Assembly polls, our fight for reservation will continue,“ said Hardik who is facing sedition cases in Ahmedabad and Surat.

He added, “The sections slammed on me in this case are grievous and in such cases, the police often conduct combing operations to flush out the accused. However, despite being aware of my presence, DCP (Zone 5) Girish Pandya declared me `absconding’ on March 22. It should be noted that PAAS leader Geeta Patel was arrested from her residence at 5am while Sardar Patel Group member Nachiket Mukhi was picked up from his residence at 7am by the crime branch in this case. The officers are not arresting me because the case is fabricated.“

PAAS leader Varun Patel told Mirror, “The police did not arrest us when we went to surrender. Hereafter, should Hardik Patel or any other PAAS member be harmed, the police and BJP government will be at fault.“

Before leaving the premises, Hardik submitted an application to the crime branch declaring his intention to surrender and urging the police to uphold law and order without succumbing to the ruling party’s pressure.

Sources told Mirror that with BJP National Chief Amit Shah scheduled to address a BJP rally in the city on March 29 and the Patidars planning to protest at the venue , the home department has ordered the city crime branch to keep a close eye on movement of PAAS members. “Had Hardik been arrested on Monday, the crime branch would have been forced to keep him in custody for 24 hours prompting mass protests by Patidar youths, especially in Naranpura from where Amit Shah is the MLA. It is likely Hardik will be arrested after the programme is succesfully completed.“