Assam Police Arrest Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani Over Tweet; Cong Holds Protest, Seeks His Release

Assam police have arrested Gujarat MLA and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani from Palanpur town in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district and took him to the north-eastern state by air in the early hours of Thursday, officials said. While the police did not specify the reason behind his arrest, Mevani’s close aide cited a document shared by the Assam police and claimed that the legislator was held over his tweet on Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse. Angered over Mevani’s arrest, Gujarat Congress leaders staged a demonstration near Sarangpur circle in the city and demanded his release.

Meanwhile, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma claimed that he was not aware of Jignesh Mevani’s identity, hours after he was arrested.

An official of Banaskantha police station said, “Assam police took custody of Mevani from Palanpur circuit house late on Wednesday night and took him with them to Assam after informing the local police.” Banaskantha Superintendent of Police Akshayraj Makwana confirmed that Assam police arrested Mevani and took him to their state after informing Palanpur police.

Mevani had won as an independent MLA from Vadgam (SC) seat of Banaskantha in 2017 through Congress support. Though he is “ideologically” with Congress at present, he has not joined the opposition party officially. He has earlier said that he would fight the next elections as a Congress candidate. He was arrested after an FIR under section 153A of the IPC, which deals with offences related to promoting enmity between communities, was registered at Kokrajhar police station in Assam, said Mevani’s aide Suresh Jat. “As per a document shared by the officials of the Assam police, an FIR has been lodged over a tweet by Mevani few days back. However, the tweet has been withheld by Twitter. It was about Nathuram Godse. Mevani was first brought to Ahmedabad by road and then taken to Assam by air early in the morning,” Jat added.

Apart from section 153A of the IPC, Mevani has been booked under section 295A (malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 504 (provocation with an intention to break public peace) and under relevant sections of the IT Act. In a statement, Mevani’s office said he was arrested by Assam police from Palanpur circuit House at 11.30 pm on Wednesday and then taken to Assam by air from Ahmedabad airport in the early hours of Thursday. After learning about Mevani’s arrest, Gujarat Congress president Jagdish Thakor and other Congress leaders rushed to Ahmedabad airport around 4 am to express solidarity with Mevani.

To protest Mevani’s arrest, Congress leaders and workers, including Thakor, Leader of Opposition Sukhram Rathva and former Gujarat Congress chief Siddharth Patel, staged a protest at Sarangpur circle and raised anti-BJP slogans. Following their attempt to block the busy road, local police briefly detained nearly 20 Congress workers and leaders, including Thakor, said an official of the city police control room.

‘Who is he?’ Asks Assam CM on Mevani’s arrest

Meanwhile, CM Sarma, responding to a media person’s query on the sidelines of a programme, claimed that he was not aware of who Mevani was. “I don’t know. Who is he?” Sarma sought to know when asked for his reaction to the arrest. “I am not aware,” the chief minister added.

The state Congress unit, however, smelt a conspiracy behind the arrest and rushed legal experts to the aid of the apprehended Dalit leader, who recently pledged his support to the grand old party.

Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) president Bhupen Borah, criticising the police action, alleged that it smacked of conspiracy.

“Police did not give details of the FIR based on which Mevani was arrested. Mevani has always been vocal against the BJP and the RSS,” he had said, shortly after the arrest. Borah also maintained that people of Assam were suffering from insecurity due to rising cases of murders, dacoity and other crimes, but the state’s police force is more focused on dealing with a simple tweet rather than protecting its citizens.

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