Following his attack on Saturday night by a gang of men at Khergam in the Navasari district, thousands of tribals gathered in Congress MLA Anant Patel’s hometown of Unai on Sunday. In order to avoid roadblocks in the 14 districts of the tribal belt, the protestors asked that the police arrest the suspect within 72 hours.
According to the police’s initial information report, the Congress MLA was allegedly attacked at Khergam by a group of 40 to 45 persons, including Vaad village headman Chetan Patel.
The attack, according to tribal leader Patel, happened when Zila Panchayat chief Bhikhu Ahir was travelling to Khergam, Navsari for a meeting. In response for the incident, the district panchayat leader’s store was targeted.
Patel, 42, was a key figure in the tribal rebellion earlier this year. As a result, the Center decided to postpone the Par-Tapi-Narmada (PTN) river-linking project in May to prevent tribal people from being uprooted from their ancestral lands in the project’s affected region.
In his district of Vansda, a Navaratri dance event called “Ekaj chale Anant Patel chale,” which roughly translates to “Patel sticks to his stand,” was held the day before the attack.
As part of his election campaign for the state elections anticipated later this year, posters and banners with the slogan “Maaru ghar e Anant Patel nu ghar” (my house in Anant Patel’s house) have been placed in numerous locations throughout his and other tribal constituencies.
Rahul Gandhi shared a photo of Patel that showed a head injury in a tweet where he wrote: “The cowardly attack by the BJP on our MLA in Gujarat, Anant Patel, who has been fighting for the tribals against the Par-Tapi river link project, is condemnable. This shows the panic of the BJP government. Every worker of the Congress will fight till the last breath for the rights of tribals”.