By Prarthana Mitra
25-year-old pro-reservation activist Hardik Patel who went on an indefinite fast on August 25, broke the 19-day-long hunger strike on Wednesday, as the BJP government continued to turn a blind eye to his demands for a loan waiver for farmers and quota for the OBC Patidar community. Patel said that while he is breaking the fast-unto-death upon insistence from senior leaders of his community, the protest will go on.
Here’s what happened
In a statement to the press, the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) chief announced that dying would be playing into the government’s hands that wants him dead. Amidst support and solidarity from political parties all over the country, Patel called off the fast two days after his condition deteriorated and he had to be admitted to the hospital. He has also demanded the immediate release of PAAS member Alpesh Kathiriya, who was arrested on sedition charges.
The deafening silence of the centre, which neither commented on his condition or demands, provoked the ire of several opposition parties. Chiefly among them was former prime minister and JD(S) leader HD Deve Gowda, who wrote a strongly-worded letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to constitute a commission for looking into the quota demands. Gowda had also written another letter to Patel, urging him to give up the fast unto death because the nation needs the youth leader “to fight further for good causes.”
Other parties like Aam Aadmi Party, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Shiv Sena and Rashtriya Janata Dal had expressed their solidarity with the Gujarat youth; a Congress delegation had even requested the state government to initiate talks with PAAS, drawing remarks from the BJP-led cabinet claiming that the fast was politically motivated and sponsored by Congress.
On Wednesday, however, Deputy chief minister Nitin Patel praised Hardik for taking the right decision, adding that it was committed to the welfare of every community, including Patidars.
Why did Hardik Patel go on a fast unto death?
Patel launched the hunger strike on August 25, to commemorate the violence that broke out three years ago, during the pro-quota rally he had led. His demands remain the same to this day; include Patidars under the OBC quota for government jobs and education, and waive loans for farmers. On September 2, Hardik had released his last will and testament, distributing his inheritance among his family and 14 other families who lost their kin to the agitation in 2015.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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