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Gujarat: Dalit Groups to Hold Massive Demonstrations Demanding Mevani's Release on May 1

Dalits from more than 1,000 villages are expected to join the demonstrations on May 1- Gujarat Day.
Gujarat: Dalit Groups to Hold Massive Demonstrations Demanding Mevani's Release on May 1

Image Courtesy: PTI

Protests against the arrest of Vadgam (Gujarat) MLA Jignesh Mevani have intensified, with dalit groups announcing a huge demonstration against Assam police's action on May 1, Gujarat Day.

Mevani was arrested by Assam police from Palanpur circuit house in Gujarat's Banasakantha district on April 20 and was flown to Assam the next day.

The arrest was made after a complaint by Arup Dey, an executive member of the Bodoland Territorial Council and Member of the Council Legislative Assembly (MCLA) in Bodoland Territorial Council. The complaint was regarding a tweet by Mevani on April 18 ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to his home state Gujarat.

Mevani had tweeted: "Godse ko apna aradhya manne wale pradhanmantri Narendra Modi 20 tarikh se Gujarat daure pe hai, unse appeal hai ki Gujarat me Himmatnagar, Khambat aur Veraval me jo kaumi hadse huye hai uske khilaf shanti aur aman ka appeal kare. Mahatma mandir ke nirmata se itni ummid to banti hai. (PM Modi, who idealises Godse, is set to commence his Gujarat tour on April 20. I appeal to him to appeal for peace and brotherhood in Himmatnagar, Khambat and Veraval, which recently witnessed communal tension. I hope this much can be expected of someone who built Mahatma Mandir)."

Mevani's arrest saw immediate reactions in Gujarat and Assam. On April 21, dalit women led by Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch (RDAM) protested across Gujarat and held 'Rasta Roko' demonstrations in Ahmedabad, Kutch, Godhra, Bhavnagar and other districts. Yash Makwana, a member of RDAM, told NewsClick that the dalit community in Gujarat is disappointed over Mevani's brazen arrest, adding that "Mevani is more than an MLA for us; he is our fellow activist."

In Assam, Congress workers have been protesting since April 21. Assam police detained senior Congress leaders in the state following a protest demonstration in the Barpeta district on April 26.

Following the arrest, Mevani had received bail in the case from a chief judicial magistrate in the Kokrajhar district but was re-arrested moments later in another FIR filed in Assam's Barpeta district. The second arrest under Sections 294, 323, and 354 of the Indian Penal Code was made in a case involving an assault on a woman officer and obstructing a public servant from discharging their duty.

Dalit rights activist Martin Macwan said that "dalits from over 1,000 villages in Gujarat will switch off the lights in their homes and light a lamp in front of the Constitution" on May 1.

Macwan further said that while one can question Mevani's choice of words in his tweet, he only appealed for communal harmony, adding that "in all probability dalits from more than 1,000 villages will join the protest."

Dalit groups also wrote to Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel, seeking an apology for the action against Mevani. They also demanded that Mevani "be brought back to Gujarat with all due respect." On May 1, dalit groups in Gujarat will organise state-wide programmes, further intensifying their protest demanding Mevani's release and withdrawal of cases against all other dalits.

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