A rally to mark one year of Una flogging incident in which members of a Dalit family were attacked by alleged gau rakshaks has run into trouble with Mehsana police on Saturday withdrawing permission for the march as well public meetings, citing threat to law and order. The week-long march, Azadi Koonch, organised by Jignesh Mewani’s Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch (RDAM), was to start from Mehsana on July 12 and culminate at Dhanera city in Banaskanth district on July 18.
“We have received a letter from the mamlatdar telling us that they are cancelling the permission for the meeting and the march in Mehsana. They had given us the permission earlier, and just three days before the event they have decided to cancel it, telling us that it is a threat to law and order. In a state, where people openly display trishuls and swords, how does a Dalit protest march pose a problem to law and order,” said Mewani.
The RDAM on Saturday invited people to participate in the march through social media. “We will make sure that the march takes place, no matter what. A rath yatra gets permission, but a march seeking equality and freedom becomes a threat. Since we are getting massive support from Patidars and Muslims, the (BJP) government sees us as a problem. They propose a Dalit candidate to be the President, but do not let Dalits fight for their rights,” he added.
Mehsana has been the epicentre of the Patidar quota agitation. In August 2016, the city witnessed large-scale violence during the quota protest.
Mehsana SP Chaitanya Mandlik said: “We withdrew the permission after getting information about likely clashes between people of upper castes and lower castes. A few incidents have happened in Mehsana in the recent past and keeping them in mind, we took the decision.”
On the eve of the march, former JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar and victims of Dadri lynching incident were scheduled to address a meeting in Saraspur, Ahmedabad. The permission for the meeting has not been cancelled yet. “We have approached the Mehsana Collector as denying permission for the march is against the fundamental right of a citizen…We will take it up legally as well,” said Anand Yagnik, advocate of the RDAM.