At Jignesh Mevani's rally in Delhi, more empty chairs than support: Dalit leader forays into national politics

Making his debut on the national political stage with the Yuva Hunkar rally, Dalit activist and newly-elected Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani lashed out at the BJP government asking why the Dalit community was facing atrocities during its rule.

"We believe in the democracy, in the Constitution, and its essence. You (BJP) can attack us, and verbally abuse us. Despite that, we will talk about the Constitution and hum the tune of love," Mevani, the newly-elected Gujarat MLA said.

Mevani added that he — along with Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakore — was being targeted because of the way they "crushed BJP's goal of 150 seats in Gujarat."

Raising the pitch against the BJP, Mevani said that the Narendra Modi government should "reply why Chandrashekhar Azad is still in jail? Why Bhima-Koregaon incident occurred? What happened to two crore jobs for the youth? Why farmers in Madhya Pradesh had to die from police bullets?"

"We will raise these questions in the Gujarat Assembly and on streets across the country," he said.

 Dalit leader and Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani addresses the 'Youth Hunkar' rally in New Delhi on Tuesday. PTI

Dalit leader and Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani addresses the 'Youth Hunkar' rally on Tuesday. PTI

Bhim Army founder Chandrashekhar Azad (30) was arrested in June, 2017 from Himachal Pradesh as he is the main accused in Thakur-Dalit clashes in Uttar Pradesh's Saharanpur district. His supporters turned up on Tuesday with posters bearing his image.

Thumbing his nose at the Delhi Police, which had declined permission for holding the rally to demand the release of Azad, Mevani used the platform to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi over "Gujarat model" of politics.

"The 125 crore people of this country are watching that someone is not being allowed to speak for merely demanding the release of Chandrashekhar Azad, effective implementation of the Constitution and two crore jobs to the youth.

"If an elected representative does not have the right to do so, then this is Gujarat model," Mevani said to loud cheers from a crowd comprising student activists from Delhi, Lucknow and Allahabad among other places.

Mevani further claimed that the country was facing a "severe crisis" that it hadn't seen earlier. "We are facing fascism. In the last four years, in the name of 'love jihad', ghar wapsi and cow politics, people are suffering. But what about development? What about the rights of adivasis, Dalits and poor? We want these issues to be addressed," Mevani said.

"I have Manusmriti in one hand and book on Constitution on the other hand," he said, adding, "We want to ask all of you: What do you want?"

Former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar also spoke at the rally amid echoing chants of 'Jai Bhim' and 'Release Chandrashekhar.'

Kanhaiya said: "We don't want violence. We have no hatred against anyone. We want peace in the society. We are here not against any religion but we are here for Constitution. We want people should have the right to follow his or her religion peaceful. We have been painted as anti-Hindu but our only objective is to save the Constitution."

He alleged that the BJP was creating communal divisions to rule. "The BJP does not want 'Ram Rajya'... In the fight between Allah and Ram, the victory will always go to Nathuram (Godse)," said the student leader.

JNU student leader Umar Khalid criticised the Modi government and said that the prime minister's "bubble has burst." "The myth around Modi is fading. It has been due. We don't want hatred, we want jobs, peace and growth for the youth. Those who believe in manuvadi school of thoughts don't have any space for Dalits. We will fight and avenge the death of Rohith Vemula," he said.

Assam RTI and farmers' rights activist Akhil Gogoi, who spoke before Mevani at the rally, said, "We have to make a program to throw away the Modi government."

Gogoi claimed that the BJP-led NDA government had planned entry of two crore illegal migrants — Hindu-Bangladeshis — into Assam. "It will be BJP-RSS vote bank. This is Modi government's plan for Assam," he said at the gathering.

He further slammed BJP's promise of better days, and said: "North East industrial investment policy has been scrapped. (There are) Attacks on the adivasis, on Assam, on Muslims, on Dalits, on farmers. Where is achhe din for us, for women?"

Hitting out at the media and the Delhi Police, former JNUSU vice-president Shehla Rashid said, "Don't be influenced by the media or police information. We will go from Gujarat to Kashmir. We will expose RSS' conspiracy."

Rashid also claimed that the police was "lying" about the cancellation of the permission for the rally.

Hailing Mevani at the rally, Bhim Sena chief Ratan Lal said that Dalit outfit wanted to give the Gujarat MLA responsibility to take up the issues of Dalits. "We want from every home a Kanshi Ram takes birth. If we all join hands and fight, RSS-BJP will wet their pants. Today, if a Dalit girl gets raped, police never registers the victim's complaint," he said.

He added: "We want our participation in job, in land, in the Parliament. The Bhim Army will begin a campaign to create awareness of our Constitution."

Rally sees modest turnout 

The entire stretch from Jantar Mantar to Parliament Street, which is almost 1.5 kilometres, had massive security cover all around on Tuesday.

Around 2,000 security personnel, including the paramilitary forces, were deployed in the national capital.

A senior officer from New Delhi district told PTI that additional forces from other districts of the city were called in.

Parliament Street was fortified and water cannon vehicles were deployed, he said.

Delhi Police and CRPF put barricades all across Parliament Street, and guarded every entry point as a security measure during the rally.

The organisers claimed that supporters from outside of Delhi would attend the rally, which began at 1 pm. However, according to Times Now, only few hundred supporters turned up for the event.

With inputs from agencies


Updated Date: Jan 10, 2018 07:22 AM

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