Maharashtra government on Thursday denied permission for the All India National Students’ Summit where newly-elected Gujarat MLA and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani and JNU student leader Umar Khalid were invited as guests. This comes in the wake of the Monday’s Bhima Koregaon violence and subsequent state-wide bandh call by Dalit outfits which brought parts of Maharashtra to a grinding halt. The Bandh was eventually called off by Dalit groups on Wednesday.
The Congress condemned the denial saying the “weak” government got “scared” of students. Mevani and Khalid were booked by the Pune Police as well under charges of ‘creating communal disharmony’ through the ‘provocative speeches’ they delivered at Elgaar Parishad. The FIR said that two “provocative” speeches by them had led to incidents of “arson and stone pelting” on January 1.
Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said, “The government has suddenly cancelled a scheduled conference of students and has arrested students,” adding that the conference was scheduled for last month and was supposed to be addressed by student leaders from across the state.
At least seven members of Chhatra Bharti, the organising team of the event in Mumbai, were detained which included Datta Daghe, the president of Chhatra Bharati, the organiser of the event, other organisers such as MLC Kapil Patil, Allahabad University student leader Richa Singh and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leader Pradip Narwal.
NCP legislator Vidya Chavan criticised the state government and the police for the detention of students ahead of the summit.
The issue of Bhima Koregaon violence was raised in Rajya Sabha by Congress MP Rajni Patil. Samajwadi Party’s Naresh Agarwal also demanded action and constitution of a Commission for a report on the matter. Congress MP Rajni Patil gave a notice in the Upper House under rule 267 over the issue.
However, BJP MP from Maharashtra Amar Shankar Sable said Mevani and Khalid made incendiary statements. “The Congress tries to connect every Dalit atrocity with Sangh. This too should be condemned like attacks against Dalits,” he said amid protests in the House.
Praising the Maharashtra government, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said, “Bhima Koregaon protests are unfortunate. The situation could have worsened, but the state government handled it decently.”
Meanwhile, a second complaint was filed against pro-Hindutva leaders Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, who have been accused of inciting violence. First was filed against them on Tuesday.
The Mumbai Police registered a total of 25 FIRs in connection with the protests. The cases were registered under various sections of the Maharashtra Police Act, Defacement of Public Property, Criminal Amendment Act and the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The number of FIRs are likely to rise as they are just interim ones.
Rajya Sabha MP Sharad Pawar also spoke on the violence in Maharashtra and stressed on the need to resolve the Dalit-Maratha conflict in the state. Elaborating on the Bhima Koregaon history, Pawar said, “Though Dalits have been paying tributes for 50 years, there was never a conflict. This time, however, two groups tried to ruin the memorial last year which led to conflict.”
Meanwhile, CPI leader D Raja also gave a notice on the increasing atrocities against Dalits.
On Wednesday, over 30 policemen were injured during the protests in Mumbai. Most of the injuries were a result of stone pelting, said an official.
A total of 37 arrests were made by the Mumbai Police till last night.
Owing to the protests, Mumbai metro had to cancel 35 trips between 11.30 am to 4.55 pm. During this period, the metro was operating only between airport road to Versova stations with 25 per cent lower ridership.
Violence erupted in Pune district on January 1 when Dalit groups were celebrating the bicentenary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle in which the forces of the British East India Company defeated the Peshwa’s Army.