Hardik gets bail, set for freedom after 10 months

Ahmedabad: After serving over nine months in jail, Patidar reservation spearhead Hardik Patel was on Monday granted bail in the last case against him, preparing the ground for his release. The Gujarat High Court, which had allowed him conditional bail last week in two sedition cases, followed suit in the case related to the attack on the office of Visnagar BJP MLA Hrishikesh Patel and other government properties during the reservation agitation. He had challenged in the high court the Visnagar court's refusal to give bail to him. The appeal was heard on Monday. Police had filed a chargesheet against Hardik Patel and 16 others in a case of rioting and assault registered at Visnagar town. The first rally by Patels seeking quota in government jobs and educational institutions was held at Visnagar on July 6 last year. The 23-year-old Patel leader has been bailed out in the sedition cases on the condition that he stays away from Gujarat for six months. In the Visnagar case, he has been barred from entering Mehsana district for three months after the previous term concludes. "This, in effect, means he will be out of Mehsana district (of which Visnagar is a part) for nine months," his advocate Zubin Bharda told reporters. Mehsana is the home district of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah and Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel. The high court has allowed Hardik Patel to stay in the state for two days to visit his house to collect his belongings. However, the court declined his request to visit the temple of family deity in Unjha town in Mehsana, Bharda said. "It may be about a couple of days when Hardik walks out into fresh air as we need to complete some formalities," his lawyer said. Sources in the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) say Patel was likely to spend the next six months in election-bound Uttar Pradesh. The Kurmis in the country's most populous state are equivalent to Patels in Gujarat and are considered electorally significant. Gujarat PAAS convenor and spokesman Varun Patel told IANS: "We are yet to decide where Hardik stays. It will either be Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan or Delhi." The release of Hardik Patel was welcomed with firecrackers and shouting of slogans by his supporters and family members outside the high court, his hometown Viramgam in Ahmedabad district and at Visnagar town in north Gujarat and in Surat city. "We are very happy that Hardik would be free after nine long months," his mother Ushaben Patel told mediapersons at their residence in Viramgam. Asked if she would agree to Hardik Patel continuing the quota agitation, she said she would stand by him at all times.  "He is no longer just my son. He is the son of the community. If he thinks he is required for the community, I will stand with him," she said. Hardik Patel has several times in the past said he would continue his agitation in a peaceful manner and was not agreeable to the 10 per cent quota announced by the Anandiben Patel government to economically backward classes among the non-reserved category of communities.