Hardik Patel, the 24-year-old face of the Patidar campaign in Gujarat, was sentenced to two years in jail after a court found him guilty in a three-year-old rioting case. Soon after the verdict, he and two others were granted bail.
The Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader and two of his aides - Lalji Patel and AK Patel - were found guilty of rioting, arson, damage to property and unlawful assembly. The three were fined Rs 50,000 apart from the two-year imprisonment.
Hardik Patel was named in the complaint filed in July 2015 when a rally of the Patel community seeking reservation turned violent, resulting in damage to property and assault on some media persons. He and 17 others are accused of being part of a group of around 500 people from the Patel community which vandalised the office of a BJP legislator in the town of Visnagar in Mehsana district, attacked journalists, and rioted on July 23. The incident took place when the Patel agitation demanding job reservation was at its peak.
After the sentencing, Hardik Patel said the BJP's "Hitlershahi" cannot prevent him from fighting for "truth, farmers, youth and poor". "If it is a sin to fight for social justice and rights, then I am a sinner. If those who fight for the truth and rights are rebels, then I am a rebel. BJP's Hitlershahi cannot suppress my fight for truth, farmers, youth and poor by putting me behind bars," he tweeted.
Last October, a sessions court in Visnagar had issued an arrest warrant against Hardik Patel and another Patidar leader, Lalji Patel, for not attending the court proceedings.
Earlier this month, the activist had announced that he will sit on an indefinite fast from August 25 to press for reservation to the community members in government jobs and education.
(With inputs from PTI)