Jignesh Mevani says he’s being targeted, asks PM to speak up on violence against Dalits

Newly-elected Gujarat legislator Jignesh Mevani on Friday accused the ruling BJP of “targeting” him and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to clarify his position on the safety of Dalits, a day after he was denied permission to hold a rally in Mumbai.

“Why aren’t Dalits safe in this country? Why is the monster of caste still alive when we are trying to find out if there is water on Mars,” Mevani asked.

“I will go to the PM on January 9 with a copy of the Manu Smriti and Constitution and ask him what do you choose,” he told reporters in New Delhi.

Mumbai Police on Thursday denied permission for a convention where Mevani and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leader Umar Khalid were supposed to speak.

Authorities detained the organisers of the proposed event at Bhaidas Hall in Vile Parle and banned the assembly of more than four people. The move was met with angry protests at the venue of the convention, with agitators accusing the city police of bias.

A day earlier, Mevani and Khalid were charged for allegedly making “provocative” speeches at an event and spreading disharmony and rift between the Maratha and Dalit communities, which led to the violence and the death of a 28-year-old man in Pune’s Bhima Koregaon on January 1.

The event was organised to commemorate the 200th anniversary of a British-era battle of Bhima-Koregaon at Pune’s Shaniwar Wada on December 31.

“No part of my speech was provocative or inflammatory. I am just being targeted,” ANI quoted him as saying.

“The members of the Sangh Parivar and the BJP made a childish attempt to tarnish my image and target me. It is an after effect of the Gujarat results and it is also because they have a sense of fear about 2019,” he said.

Dalit groups were celebrating the bicentenary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle, in which Dalit soldiers of the British East India Company emerged triumphant over those of the Peshwa, on January 1 when they were allegedly targeted by upper-caste men. As the Peshwas were Brahmins, the victory is seen as a symbol of assertiveness by Dalits.

Mevani had spearheaded protests in Gujarat a year ago after four Dalits were allegedly flogged by upper-caste men for skinning a dead cow.