The Pune police, late on Wednesday night, registered a criminal case against newly elected Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani and student leader from JNU Umar Khalid under charges of ‘creating communal disharmony’ through the ‘provocative speeches’ they delivered at Elgaar Parishad held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31.
The complaint application was received at Deccan Gymkhana police station, which was submitted by two youths Akshay Bikkad (22) and Anand Dhond (25), who claimed not to be affiliated with any organisation. The two had demanded registration of criminal offence against Mevani and Khalid for promoting enmity between different groups through their speeches. The complaint was later forwarded to Vishrambag police station, under whose jurisdiction the Elgaar Parishad was held.
The FIR quotes the parts of speeches by Mevani and Khalid — one line each — which have been found problematic. Mevani is quoted as having said, “Nav Peshwai ke saamne agar humein jeetna hain, Bhima Koregaon ke iss ladai ko aage leke jaana hain, uss sangharsh ko aage le jaana hain, us sangharsh se agar prerit hona hain, ye chunavi raajneeti se nahin hoga. Main maanta hoon ki, janata ki ladai ladne wale kuch log, Gujarat ki aur Maharashtra ki assembly mein hone chahiye. Iss desh ke parliament mein bhi hone chahiye. Lekin jaatir nirmoolan toh sadakonki ladai se hoga. Ek varga ka dusre varga pe, jo shasan hain, woh sadakon ki ladai se khatam hoga. (If we have to win against new Peshwas, we will have to take forward the battle of Bhima Koregaon, take forward that struggle, and take inspiration from that struggle. This cannot happen through electoral politics. I understand that some of the people who fight for the common masses should be in the assemblies of Gujarat or Maharashtra, and in the Parliament of this country. But annihilation of caste differences would happen only through street fights. The rule of one section of the people over others would end through street fights).”
Similarly, Khalid is quoted as having said, “Bhima Koregaon ki is ladai ko aanewala kal bana sakte hain. Unhone hamla kiya, palatwar ki baari hain. Ladai ko ladenge aur ye ladai jeetna hi, un shahidon ko shraddhanjali rahegi. Aur Nav Peshwai ka khatma hi Bhima Koregaon ke shahidon ko shraddhanjali rahegi. (We can make this battle of Bhima Koregaon our future. They had attacked us, it is time for retaliation. We will fight and have to win. This will be a tribute to those martyrs. The end of new Peshwas will also be a tribute to Koregaon martyrs).”
The police said on Wednesday that they were analysing speeches of the duo in reference to the complaint. Senior inspector Appasaheb Shevale said that the FIR was registered late in night on Wednesday and that Mevani and Khalid were booked under section 153A of Indian Penal Code (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 conducing to public mischief) and 117 (Abetting commission of offence by the public). The FIR lists out several statements made by the two at the conference.
The Elgaar Parishad was held in Pune to mark the 200th year of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, a place in present day Pune district, which was fought between the then British Indian Army and the Peshwas. Besides Mevani and Khalid, Rohith Vemula’s mother Radhika Vemula, Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar, Adivasi activist Soni Sori, and Bhim Army’s Vinay Ratan Singh were among others who attended the conference.