BHOPAL: Hardik Patel, the man leading the Patidar agitation for reservation in government jobs and education, got arrested today on the Rajasthan-Madhya Pradesh border while leading a march to Mandsaur to express solidarity with protesting farmers. Mr Patel, 23, who was picked up by the police in Neemuch, Madhya Pradesh, said he has been arrested on the "orders" of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The police said he was violating the prohibitory orders in the area under Section 144, which bans the gathering of more than four persons. The orders have been in place in the area since last week, when six farmers died when the police opened fire to control the crowd at a farmers' protest.
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"I am not a terrorist. I have not come from Lahore. I am an Indian citizen and have the right to go anywhere in the country," Hardik Patel was quoted as saying news agency Press Trust of India.
He was accompanied by Janata Dal (United) leader Akhilesh Katiyar, who was also placed under arrest. The two were released on bail later and transported out of Madhya Pradesh in police vehicles.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is expected to meet the families of the farmers who had died in the June 6 violence, tomorrow.
The government has ordered an inquiry into the firing by retired High Court judge JK Jain. He will be the one-man judicial commission examining the issue.
Mandsaur has been the epicentre of protests by farmers who have been demanding better price for their crops and a loan waiver from the state government. The protests have flared up further since last week as six farmers died when the police opened fire to control the crowds. Malhargarh in Mandsaur is the area worst hit by violence.
The police have filed 46 cases over the firing, which took place on June 6, but none of the cases have been filed against any police officer. The police maintain their officers had opened fire in self-defence.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who tried to visit Mandsaur last week to meet the families of the deceased farmers, had got arrested too. The police caught up with him after a long steeplechase across roads and fields and kept him detained for a few hours at a local guest house.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who undertook a 28-hour fast for peace over the weekend has promised that action will be taken against the guilty.
Last night, Madhya Pradesh Home Secretary Madhu Khare was transferred to the Khadi and Gramodyag department. A senior police officer and an administration official who were in charge of Mandsaur when the firing took place have already been transferred.
The farmers in Madhya Pradesh had started protests earlier this month, demanding better prices for their crops and a loan waiver.