Dear Hardik Patel,
I am a common citizen of Gujarat. I did not know who you were until a few days ago. I have a feeling I will be seeing a lot more of you now. I have read that your organisation, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), came into existence less than a month ago. I have been told that you believe that the Patidar community is losing out in the development race because of reservation quota.
Depending from where you are looking at it, reservations, in their current form, might be a problem for some and a lifeline for others. One thing I clearly don’t understand is, if you think reservations are a problem, why are you asking for it? In a television interview you said that the government should either give reservation to the patidars or remove reservation all together. This is like saying “Give me a piece of the cake or throw the entire cake away.” On one hand you are saying that reservation causes problems and on the other hand you are demanding it too. If the Patidar community gets reservations, it will still be a problem for the rest of the citizens and the Patidar community will go from being against the problem to being a part of it. As someone who is a strong supporter of the Patidar community, why are you letting this happen to the reputation of the community?
I was also curious about a few thing that I saw during your rally. In a state where majority of your audience speaks in Gujarati, your speech was completely in Hindi. Who was your real audience? You have photos with political leaders from BJP, Congress and AAP. Have you decided which party you are supporting? Your past and present actions don’t look apolitical to me. I am yet to connect the emerging dots, but I see a pattern akin to the India Against Corruption movement conceived by Ajit Doval of the Vivekanda International Foundation.
Anyways, coming back to what happened yesterday. You wanted to hold a rally to demand reservations for Patidar. It is your right to demand anything you want to from the government as long as it is peaceful. For reasons best known to them, the Government of Gujarat went out of the way to facilitate your rally even at the cost of holding an entire city to ransom. They even waived the Toll Tax for your vehicles and gave you the GMDC ground for free. They even permitted you to walk all the way to the Collector Office from that place. The road blocks and crazy honking by your friends caused a lot of inconvenience to a lot of people but the government of the day still let you do it because of some ulterior motive that is still not clear to many of us.
You got the ground. You got the permission for a rally right through the heart of the city. You even got the state to bring in thousands of police personnel to ensure that no one disrupted your rally and everything was facilitated for your convenience. Great.
You were given permission to use the GMDC ground till a particular time. At 8pm, when the police asked you to vacate the government property, why did you not agree? Why are there photos and videos of your fellow patidars shouting slogans and destroying public property? Doesn’t the government have the right to ask you to move out after the permission expires? Similarly there is footage of Police Personnel damaging vehicles of the Media and mindlessly assaulting media persons at the GMDC venue. What went wrong? Where did the bonhomie vanish? And, more importantly, why did it vanish? Do we, as citizens of Ahmedabad, have a right to know or was it some private arrangement between you and the Government?
Be that as it may, you refused to vacate the GMDC grounds and the police arrested you and intriguingly let you go after sometime. The violence that started after your arrest has continued even after your release.
I don’t see how your supporters think any of these things will help their case. If they were angry at you being arrested, there are legal ways to go about it. Those are the ways everyone follows if they feel an arrest was illegal. If they were angry that they are not in the reserved category then as they already know, there is a pre defined procedure to ask for it. Government authorities get to decide on a case by case basis if your community is eligible for reservation. There are set guidelines/checklists to do this.
Any individual or a group, howsoever influential he or it may be, cannot be allowed to hold the city or the state at ransom with the tacit blessings and connivance of the Government. It is the duty of the Government to prevent such situations from developing so as to ensure the safety of the other citizens.
It was also great amusing to see people come in really expensive cars to your rally and then claim to be ‘under priviledged’. As a lot of people have noted, a ‘show of strength’ to prove that you are one of the ‘weaker castes’ is hilariously ironic. If the money spent in organizing this rally was used to help the poor brethren of your community, some of them would definitely have benefitted.
At 22, you have a lot of good years ahead of you. I would suggest improving your knowledge atleast on topics that you are fighting for. For starters, I would recommend that you read the Constitution of India. Even your so called adversaries in the Government may benefit by revisiting the Constitution. It will give both sides an idea about their rights and duties.
I hope I have made my point. I have a feeling I will see you more often atleast till the 2017 elections in Gujarat. I hope you use your power to bring positive change in the country. Youth in India rarely get this chance, don’t spoil it for the rest of us. Don’t malign the reputation of your community/city/state.
I don’t know what is your understanding with the Government of the day and who is driving this agitation and why, but if you ever start a genuine and non-violent campaign to revisit the issue of reservations, most of us will stand by you. For now, lets stop this violence and bring back normalcy to our city and state.
Here’s to hoping for a more peaceful and sensible tomorrow.
This letter is a modified version of a brilliant letter written by my young friend, Apoorv Shah. The insinuations and innuendos in this modified version of the letter are entirely mine. The original letter is available on his blog My Two Cents.