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Assam police arrest Mevani from Gujarat after complaint over tweet

Gujarat high court lawyer Anand Yagnik, representing Mevani, told The Indian Express that, he would move an application before the Assam High Court seeking "quashing of the FIR and bail for the MLA".

Written by Tora Agarwala , PARIMAL DABHI | Gandhinagar, Guwahati |
Updated: April 22, 2022 1:56:48 am
Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani being taken into custody from a circuit house in Palanpur, Gujarat, on Wednesday night. (Photo: Twitter/@kanhaiyakumar)

GUJARAT MLA Jignesh Mevani was arrested by the Assam Police from Gujarat’s Banaskantha district late on Wednesday, and taken to Guwahati by flight on Thursday morning. He was then taken by road to Kokrajhar district, where a local court sent him to police custody for three days.

While both the Gujarat and Assam police did not divulge details, sources said Mevani’s arrest followed a complaint filed against him by a local BJP leader in Kokrajhar regarding a purported tweet from his account against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mevani’s Twitter account showed that some of his recent tweets had been “withheld in India in response to a legal demand”.

Currently the only Independent MLA in the Gujarat Assembly, Mevani had pledged allegiance to the Congress last September. While he has not joined the party, he said he would fight the next elections as a Congress candidate.

“We don’t have much information, but (a team of) Assam Police arrested him for an offence registered under the provisions of IT Act and allied charges. The FIR has been registered in Assam and we don’t have its copy. As local police, we were just informed by the Assam Police that they have arrested Mevani,” said Banaskantha SP Akshayraj Makwana.

A senior police officer from Kokrajhar district also confirmed that Mevani “was arrested late last night from Gujarat” but added that he could not “disclose more information”. The Assam DGP and Special DGP (Law and Order) did not respond to repeated calls.

The arrest came days after Arup Kumar Dey, a BJP executive member of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), filed a complaint at the Kokrajhar police station on April 19, against a purported tweet from Mevani’s account which said Prime Minister Narendra Modi “considered Godse as God”. This was part of a tweet which urged Modi to appeal for “peace and harmony” during his visit to Gujarat, said the complaint.

In his complaint, Dey said the circulation of the tweet had “caused widespread criticism and has the propensity to disturb public tranquility, prejudicial to maintenance of harmony among a certain section of people”.

“The tweet may cause disaffection towards a particular community and in all probability is sure to promote enmity or hatred towards different communities, detrimental to peace and harmony of the common masses,” it said, adding that “maybe some unseen hand is trying to capitalise on such sensitive issues to disturb the unity, peace and brotherhood.”

The Kokrajhar police registered an FIR under various sections, including Section 66 (computer related offences) of the IT Act and Section 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) of the IPC.

Dey did not respond to calls or text messages. A senior state BJP leader said Dey, a businessman in his late 30s from Kokrajahar, has been with the party since October 2020, joining before the BTC elections in December 2020. Asked why Dey had filed the complaint, he said, “Anyone can file a complaint in the country.”

Meanwhile, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday claimed that he was “not aware” of Mevani’s identity. “I have never heard of this person, neither do I know anything about his arrest,” he told reporters, adding that the police had not given him any information about the arrest.

“Assam is not doing anything different, which has not been done in Congress-ruled states. IPC and CrPC are the same. If at all any action has been taken, it has been taken within the parameters of the law, but I am not aware of the specifics of this case,” he said.

Mevani reached Kokrajhar district at about 3 pm, and was produced before a local court later in the evening. “Our bail plea was rejected. The police sought 14 days remand, but we filed an objection petition. After both sides were heard, the Chief Judicial Magistrate sent him to police remand for three days,” said Kankan Das, part of the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee’s legal team sent to Kokrajhar. “He is currently at the Kokrajhar police station; we will be moving the Gauhati HC on Monday,” he said.

“We are in touch with the AICC. All legal help will be provided,” said Debabrata Saikia, Leader of Opposition.

Condemning Mevani’s arrest, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “Modiji, you can try to crush dissent by abusing the state machinery. But you can never imprison the truth”.

Gujarat PCC president Jagdish Thakor, who rushed to the Ahmedabad airport early on Thursday morning before Mevani was taken to Assam, said: “Jigneshbhai could not be suppressed by money or threats, so (they) mentally torture him… file complaints over complaints.”

“This being an election year, there is talk of buying MLAs, dossiers on MLAs are being opened, there is talk of MLAs joining the BJP but they (MLAs) are refusing to be bought over, refusing to be suppressed… so police will come, from Assam, from Madhya Pradesh,” he said.

Gujarat PCC spokesperson Manish Doshi called Mevani’s arrest “undemocratic and illegal”. “He is an MLA, and he has just put out a point of view that the PM appeal for peace. If the PM is making similar appeals elsewhere in the world, why can he not do it for his home state? This is an attempt to silence voices of dissent and is a dangerous trend. Mevani was picked up as if he was a terrorist or a history-sheeter, just because he is from the Opposition. And this has happened when the Prime Minister was visiting Gujarat”.

Congress working president Hardik Patel said in a tweet, “Yesterday, the Assam Police arrested MLA Jignesh Mevani around midnight… To be arrested at midnight just for a tweet… something is fishy… I warn the government that if anything happens to Mevani then you will be responsible. Now an MLA too is not safe in the country”.

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