POLICE IN Maharashtra have registered a criminal case against Dalit leader and Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani and JNU student leader Umar Khalid, for “creating communal disharmony” through “provocative speeches”, and denied permission for an event in Mumbai where the two were scheduled to speak.
The move came in the wake of protests and a bandh in Maharashtra Wednesday following violence on January 1 over celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of a battle at Bhima Koregaon near Pune, with Dalits alleging they were targeted.
Late Wednesday night, Pune police registered a criminal case against Mevani and Khalid for the speeches they delivered at the Elgaar Parishad at Shaniwarwada on December 31, 2016, to mark the battle of 1818 between British forces, including Mahar troops, and the Peshwas.
In Mumbai, police denied permission to the All India Students Summit organised by Chhatra Bharti, an independent organisation, which had invited Mevani and Khalid as speakers on Thursday. Police also detained over 100 students, who were to participate in the seminar in Vile Parle (West), for “unlawful assembly”.
Among those detained, minutes before the seminar began at 11 am, were MLC Kapil Patil, Richa Singh, president of the student union of Allahabad University, student leader Pradip Narwal from Haryana, and Dutta Dhage, president of Chhatra Bharati.
The FIR in Pune refers to speeches where Mevani allegedly called for “street fights” to end “the rule of one section of people over others”, and Khalid allegedly said that “it is time for retaliation”.
Additional Commissioner of Police Ravindra Sengaonkar said: “In the speeches delivered on December 31, Mevani and Khalid had made some provocative statements. After that, violence erupted at Bhima Koregaon… We have the full video footage of the Elgaar Parishad. We will also be recording statements of some others as part of the probe.”
The FIR comes a day after cases was registered against two pro-Hindutva leaders, Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, on charges of orchestrating the violence during celebrations to mark the battle.
The FIR against Mevani and Khalid was registered at Pune’s Vishrambag police station, under whose jurisdiction the Parishad was held, on a complaint filed by Akshay Bikkad (22) and Anand Dhond (25), who claimed not to be affiliated with any organisation.
“In the complaint, we prima facie found that offence was committed under Indian Penal Code sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and IPC sections 505 (statements conducive to public mischief) and 117 (abetting commission of offence by the public),” said ACP Sengaonkar.
Asked whether Mevani and Khalid would be summoned, he said, “The allegations in the FIR will be investigated. Then, if the investigating officers feels the need, the two will be summoned and further action taken.”
Besides Mevani and Khalid, Rohith Vemula’s mother Radhika Vemula, Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar, naxal activist Soni Sori and Bhim Army’s Vinay Ratan Singh were among others who attended the parishad.
In Mumbai, Sagar Bhalerao, vice president of Chhatra Bharati, claimed that the summit had been planned months in advance and that the organisers had all necessary permits.
“We sent a notice to Chhatra Bharati under section 149 on Wednesday night and again on Thursday morning to inform them that permission to hold the summit had been denied. However, at the venue, some participants started raising slogans against the government, so we had to detain them,” said Paramjit Singh Dahiya, DCP.