New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi must speak up on whether Dalits in this country have the right to hold peaceful rallies and protest, said Gujarat Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani today, strongly refuting the allegation that he made a provocative speech which triggered caste clashes in Maharashtra this week.
- Jignesh Mevani targets PM over violence at Pune Dalit rally
- Accused of provoking clashes, says it is "childish attempt" to target him
- Says BJP threatened by his popularity, "will teach PM lesson in 2019"
The 36-year-old alleged that the ruling BJP and its ideological mentor the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is "threatened by my growing popularity," accusing them of "attacking me because they arrogantly thought they would win 150 seats in Gujarat and stopped at 99...and now are worried about the 2019 national election."
"If Dalits continue to be targeted and my reputation is continued to be tarnished, Mr PM we will teach you a lesson in 2019," Jignesh Mevani said in multiple attacks on PM Modi, also stating, "The Prime Minister is a self-proclaimed Ambedkarite, a follower of Dr BR Ambedkar, why is he silent? Why are Dalits being attacked like in Pune? Why are Dalits not secure in India? We want to know if he has any commitment to the annihilation of caste...which was Dr Ambedkar's ultimate goal."
The Dalit leader, who was speaking in Delhi, said he would lead a youth rally on January 9 in the national capital to the PM's door with two books. "We will also visit the PM's office with the Manusmriti and the Constitution and ask him what he chooses," he said.
The BJP has hit back, accusing Mr Mevani of "trying to spread poison everywhere in the country." The party's Prabhat Jha said the activist-turned-MLA is "trying to hide his weakness and negative factors. Just in the name of RSS he can't cover up his loopholes and lapses. They are unnecessarily blaming the RSS. He must answer to the entire nation what all he did in the past few days or weeks."
A case has been filed against Mr Mevani, a new legislator after winning from Vadgam in the Gujarat Assembly elections last month, accusing him of spreading disharmony between upper caste Marathas and Dalits with his speech on December 31, in Pune, a day before clashes erupted between members of the two communities in Bhima-Koregaon, about 30 km away from the city.
"I would like to tell you not one word I spoke is inflammatory. I am a trained lawyer, I respect the law, I am also a lawmaker now," Mr Mevani said today, calling the charges against him a "childish attempt" to target him.
The first information report filed in Pune alleges that Jignesh Mevani and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Umar Khalid made provocative speeches asking people to take their fight for social justice to the streets. The police have said they are analysing the speeches and the two may be summoned for questioning.
They were speaking at an event organised to commemorate the anniversary of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon on January 1, when Dalits celebrate the victory of British troops made up of Dalit soldiers over upper caste Peshwas.
After clashes the next day, there were massive protests by Dalits all over Maharashtra including Mumbai. Protesters, allegedly Dalit supporters, blocked rail and road traffic and burnt buses. Three people were killed during the protests.
"Jignesh Mevani is a young leader from our community but he shouldn't have made provocative speeches. The BJP has no role to play (in the case against him), but there should be an investigation," Union Minister Ramdas Athawale, Dalit leader and chief of the Republican Party, an ally of the BJP in Maharashtra, said.