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.
The 36-year-old alleged that the ruling BJP is “threatened by my growing popularity,” accusing the party 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 follower of Dr BR Ambedkar, why is he silent? Why are Dalit events like the in Pune attacked? 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.”
Several vehicles were burnt in the violence that broke out over the Dalit rally in Pune.
The Dalit leader, who was speaking in Delhi, has announced a youth rally for social justice on January 9 in the national capital, saying, “We will also visit the PM’s office with the Manusmriti and the Constitution and ask him what he chooses.”
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 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, calling the charges against him a “childish attempt” to target him.
Violence broke out over a Dalit rally in Bhima-Koregaon near Pune.
“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, chief of the Republican Party, an ally of the BJP, said.
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 even 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.