Millennium Post

Hardik's indictment

Hardiks indictment

Three years after Hardik Patel burst into media headlines for leading a riotous mob that created mayhem across Gujarat, a Visnagar court on Wednesday sentenced him to two years imprisonment and fined Rs 50,000. Patel along with two others Patidar leaders were found guilty of resorting to arson and creating a ruckus at the office of BJP legislator Rushikesh Patel in Visnagar. All the convicts were later granted bail. Patel was spearheading an agitation by Patel or Patidar community demanding to be included in the OBC category and the benefits of the reservation given to the OBC community. The scale of the violence unleashed by the agitating Patel community was so widespread and massive that it sent a shock wave across the country. Within a matter of days, Hardik became a household name and came to be seen as the new face of rebellion and protest against the fledging Narendra Modi government at the Centre beside bringing the state government to its knees. That was the time when student leaders in JNU raised anti-India slogans. After the death of Dalit student Rohith Vemula, students leaders were agitated and critical of the Modi regime for pursuing an anti-Dalit agenda. It seemed the student politics was taking the centre-stage. Following the violent protests across Gujarat, Hardik emerged as another youth leader who was capable of organising massive protests, with lakhs of followers ready to beckon to his call. The youth force was consolidating and the universities were turning into the new battleground. But the government was able to stem the ensuing rebellion with some of the JNU student leaders charged with sedition. Even Hardik was piled with court cases and his movements were restricted. Though opposition leaders reached out to him and offered him support, with time Hardik mellowed down and focussed more on electoral politics than on agitation. But his show of strength and the nuisance value that he carried as demonstrated by his 2015 agitation made him a national figure. Now, with the court verdict finding him guilty of orchestrating a mass violence marked by arson and damaging public property, Hardik is once again reminded that the violent agitation can well be a stepping stone but sooner or later he has to fall in line with the law. The same has happened with JNU student leaders who after a brush with the law have mellowed down and are lying low. Some of them are expected to try their luck in the upcoming elections.

Today, India has one of the largest youth populations in the world while the politics is dominated by senior politicians. The Indian youth are struggling with problems such as unemployment, cast and gender discrimination, diminishing investments in the public education system but these issues are not dominating the public discourse, far from taking the centre-stage of the government policies. This has resulted in the marginalisation of the youth and they are not able to contribute to the development of the country. The political system is dominated by well-entrenched political parties where the youth are a mere vote bank or at best party workers ready to serve the aspiration of the senior party leaders. Their issues do not figure highly in the manifestos of the political parties. In this backdrop, when Hardik was able to pull off one of the most sensational public outbursts in recent times, he was hailed as the true champion of the youth power. But Hardik's protests were aimed at securing a reservation for his community under the OBC quota. The people who vent their anger during the agitation were from a particular community. They represented neither the youth nor any issues associated with them. The highpoint of the agitation was that Hardik despite being less than 25 years of age was leading an agitation that was capable of making both the state and the Central governments run for cover. Such was the intensity and fury of the rampaging crowd. But after that agitation, Hardik has not been able to organise similar mass protests on other issues. But he is still very young and the nation can wait for him to mature as a political leader and deliver on the aspirations of the people, especially the youth. The latest court verdict finding him guilty and sentencing him to two years of imprisonment will serve as a reminder that while serving the nation, he should ensure that he is not on the wrong side of the law. He should not advocate or resort to violence and lawlessness in his bid to get his demands accepted.

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