Ahmedabad, Feb 18: Patel quota stir spearhead Hardik Patel today launched an indefinite hunger strike at the Lajpore Jail in Surat, where he is lodged since September in two sedition cases, demanding reservation to his community in Government jobs and education under OBC category.
The surprise move by Hardik came at a time when his close aides have expressed willingness to hold talks with the BJP Government in Gujarat over the quota issue.
Three of Hardik's close aides - Ketan Patel, Chirag Patel and Dinesh Bambhaniya - who are also behind bars in sedition case, wrote a letter to Chief Minister Anandiben Patel yesterday and expressed willingness to hold talks.
Since the letter did not have the signature of Hardik, speculation is rife the 22-year-old may have felt betrayed by his own men and decided to undertake indefinite fast. Confirming the development, Jailor of Lajpore Prison SL Dusa told the media that Hardik, Convener of Patidar Anamant Andolan Samiti (PAAS), which is spearheading the stir, has stopped taking food since this morning.
"A few days back, Hardik wrote a letter to the Jail Superintendent saying he will launch an indefinite hunger strike from February 20 if his demands are not met. However, he sat on hunger strike from today itself," said Dusa.
In the letter, Hardik had threatened to shun food if the demand of reservation for Patel community under OBC quota is not accepted by the Government, said Dusa.
"Hardik also said Patel youths (who took part in the stir) have been wrongfully arrested by the Government," Dusa said, adding the young quota leader is under constant watch of medical officers inside the jail.
"We have informed the superior officers about his hunger strike. We tried to convince Hardik to end the strike but to no avail. We are taking all necessary precautions. Doctors are checking his health every hour."
One of the close associates of Hardik, Pragnesh Patel, who met Hardik several times in Lajpore jail, around 250 km from Ahmedabad, claimed he may have started the hunger strike since last evening.
"I have learned that Hardik did not take food from the home tiffin delivered by one of his relatives last evening. Today morning, when the relative once again went to give the tiffin, jail authorities told him about Hardik's hunger strike," said Pragnesh.