Bangalore: Jignesh Natvarlal Mevani who is a politician representing Vadgam constituency in Gujarat Legislative Assembly, along with Umar Khalid a student from Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has been arrested on Thursday, January 4, 2018, as a result of a complaint filed by a city resident Akshay Bikkad. According to the complaint, both Jignesh and Umar had convicted to have allegedly used provocative speeches in an event called “Elgar Parishad”, organised to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon, at Shaniwar Wada Fort in Pune on December 31, 2017.
Before diving deep into the news, let us first know the details and background of these two people.
He is a politician from Gujarat. However, before entering into politics, he served as a reporter for Abhiyan. It is after the attack on Dalit men in Una village, he turned into an activist. Following the attack, he led the protest march called Dalit Asmita Yatra from Ahmedabad to Una where 20,000 Dalits including women marched along with him. Later, in 2017 Assembly elections in Gujarat, he contested and won the election from Vadgam constituency, running as an independent candidate with support of the Indian National Congress and Aam Aadmi Party.
Umar Khalid hails from Maharashtra. He is the leader of Democratic Student’s Union (DSU) which is an extreme Left group active in JNU. Even though he was born in a Muslim family, he identifies himself as an atheist. He is doing his PhD at the School of Social Sciences at JNU. The name Umar meant nothing to most of the people outside JNU campus, until when he fell in the controversies of being the mastermind of the controversial cultural event “The Country without a Post Office” organised outside Sabarmati dhaba. This event involving all of the far left DSU activists was meant to express solidarity with those demanding self-determination in Kashmir and also engage in a discussion on government’s decision to hang Afzal Guru.
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One group of students were against this event and gave a hand written letter to stop the event. Based on this complaint and in order to avoid any clash between the students, the VC denied permission to hold the programme and this was intimated to the students just as the programme was to commence. The denial of permission enraged students from all political groups and affiliations in JNU and soon all active political groups such as SFI, AISA, DSF, BAPSA and AISF joined together to protest denial of permission and went ahead with the programme. It is when the JNUSU president, Kanhaiya Kumar came into picture to ward off the clash between the students and got arrested. Following Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest, the focus of the media turned towards Umar as he was one of the main organisers of the event. He was also seen on various TV channels defending Kanhaiya and the right of students to hold the anti-establishment protest without clearly naming Afzal Guru. There has been lot of controversies about the charges and allegations that is made on Umar.
Now back to the news, Elgaar Parishad is an event celebrated by Dalits on 1st January of every year as a victory day in the Bhima-Koregaon battle. The history of this battle states that the Dalit soldiers of East India Company troops defeated the upper caste Peshwas of Maharashtra.
One of the Shaniwar Wada city residents, Akshay Bikkad (22) and Anand Dhond (25) approached the Deccan-Gymkhana police with the complaint about the event where the so called Dalit leader, Jignesh Mevani said, “If we want to win over this new Peshwai, the battle of Bhima Koregaon needs to be taken ahead.” It was also mentioned in the complaint that Jignesh said that, it was right that people fighting the battle needed to be in assemblies and Parliament, but if one had to eradicate casteism, it would happen only by taking to the streets. The complaint was later forwarded to the Vishrambaug police station under which the Shaniwarwada city falls.
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It is also mentioned in the complaint that the JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi) student leader Umar Khalid said that the battle of Bhima Koregaon has to be taken ahead. The complaint quoted that in Umar’s speech at the event, he said, “They had attacked. It is time to retaliate and we will fight this battle and we will win and this victory over new Peshwai will be the true homage to the martyrs of Bhima Koregaon battle.”
Following the complaint, the Vishrambaug police on Wednesday, January 3, 2018, filed an FIR against the newly elected MLA from Gujarat, Jignesh Mevani and student Umar Khalid for their alleged speeches at the event. They were charged for allegedly creating unnecessary rift and enmity among the people (especially between the Maratha and Dalit communities).
Following this event, there has been huge clashes between the local right wing groups and the Dalits which resulted in the death of two people. There have been massive protests and violence all over the city. Following this huge outcry, police denied permission for “All India Students Summit 2018” event, where Jignesh Mevani and Umar Khalid were invited.
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