Even as Mumbai faced the fury of the Maratha community on the reservation issue on Wednesday, Gujarat braced for more political trouble with a court sentencing Patidar quota leader Hardik Patel and two associates in a 2015 riots case, a month before the youth leader is set to begin an indefinite fast.
However, they will not immediately go to jail as the court granted them bail within hours of convicting and sentencing them.
The conviction in a criminal case is also likely to bar Hardik, 24, from contesting elections.
A Visnagar court in Mehsana district sentenced the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) convener and two others to two years in jail on being found guilty of charges related to arson and creating a ruckus at BJP legislator Hrishikesh Patel’s office during the quota agitation in 2015.
Only the three, of the 17 accused in the case, were found guilty. The other two key accused — Lalji Patel and AK Patel of the Sardar Patel Group (SPG) — have been handed a fine of ₹50,000 each.
Besides, the court has also barred Hardik from entering Mehsana district.
Reacting to the development, Hardik announced his resolve to revive the Patidar agitation from August 25.
“If it is a sin to fight for social justice and rights, then I am a sinner. If those who fight for the truth and rights are rebels, then I am a rebel. BJP’s Hitler shahi cannot suppress my fight for truth, farmers, youth and poor by putting me behind bars,” he tweeted in Hindi.
Asserting that he will continue to fight for the oppressed, he said jails do not scare him and he will remain unstoppable.
“I am not scared of jails. I should have stayed back home if it was my fight alone. But this is the fight of crores of poor people. My fate is to fight the oppressor and fight for rights. The more you suppress me, the more I will rise to pose a challenge,” he said in a series of tweets.