It was mere moments after the PAAS leader Hardik Patel was discharged from SGVP Hospital where he had been admitted after 14 days of hunger strike on Friday that the media was alerted of a press conference to be held at the residence. Naturally, the journalists reached his residence on the outskirts of Ahmedabad and waited for the PAAS convenor to arrive at the venue. The reason for the news briefing was assumed to be a final clarity of whether Patel was going to continue his strike or end it now that he had gotten IV drips of glucose.
Almost unsurprisingly, several police officials started gathering at the gates of the pathway to Hardik Patel’s residence and at least 3 police vans were seen arriving. This was the usual site to be seen at the gates for sixteen days since the hunger strike had begun. Surprisingly, though, the police officials formed a human chain barricade which was armed with riot gear and left no space for anyone to pass through. It was only minutes after that, that the young leader arrived at the residence in an ambulance which was also stopped. Police officials were seen getting in a verbal spat with the aides of Hardik Patel and the leader himself after which he was heard weakly calling out to the police officials – “mujhe maarne ki dhamki mat dena DCP! Kuch hoga nahi!” (Don’t give me death threats! Nothing will happen!)
But it was only a few minutes after that Patel was allowed to let go inside that all hell broke loose when a TV journalist – in the middle of live coverage – tried to make their way inside. In a matter of seconds, TV journalists were shoved, and an aggressive scuffle between the journalists trying to make their way inside and the police who was trying to push them broke out.
One of the journalists, while recounting the incident also expressed, “it happened out of nowhere. We were in our live coverage and were trying to go inside – as we have been since the past two weeks to cover the presser – but some police officials started pushing us, grabbed our cameras, our boom mics, and also manhandled us,” said Bhaumik Vyas, a senior reporter from ABP Asmita.
Another journalist also recounted that his collar was grabbed and then a police official also tried to choke him. “He grabbed my throat. I was trying to stop them from pushing my colleague who is a little older and he was crying a little that his camera was taken away. But (police officials) the hand came and grabbed me and then pushed me,” said another reporter of a regional channel.
When the police officials who were in charge were questioned, they replied with arrogant dismissal, “Please mind your business. All we can tell you is that we are not allowed to allow you inside. We will not let any media go inside. All are standing here – please go stand with them,” said Amitkumar Vishwakarma, JCP Sector 1, Ahmedabad Police.
In the middle of the police cavalcade, as Hardik Patel made his way to the stretcher outside of his residence, he and his aides claim that there were death threats whispered into his ear by the police officials present there. In fact, in a video, it is seen that when Patel is trying to lie on the stretcher, he calls out to the media and spoke to a journalist, “go, tell the DCP to not give me death threats. He shouldn't do this,” Hardik said.
He then also called out to the DCP and shouted to the police while clutching his chest, “don’t give me death threats, DCP! No one will kill me except God. No one can kill me. You said, ‘I will kill you’. You just said this to me. You just said to me ‘apni haisiat me raho varna mar dunga,’ To this the DCP was heard shouting that he did not say anything like that and that he was only asking him to cooperate. While no one heard the alleged death threat, Hardik still claimed on his official Twitter handle that he was indeed given this threat by Jaypalsinh Rathod, DCP Zone 1 Ahmedabad Police.
While the journalists all stood outside the residence for two hours –all building pressure on the police officials to come out and apologise – especially to the senior journalists who were manhandled, a message was passed on from the home minister’s office demanding an internal enquiry on the matter and to understand the exact chronology of events that transpired.
The 25-year-old leader has been sitting on the indefinite hunger strike since August 25, the third anniversary of Patidar quota agitation, which had turned violent. The quota leader has been demanding loan waiver for farmers and reservation in government jobs and education for Patidars under other Backward class category.