Jignesh Mevani, a 36-year-old Dalit activist and lawyer from Gujarat, made headlines after he spearheaded a campaign in support of the rights of Dalits after the Una Dalit flogging incident in 2016, where cow vigilantes had tortured four people for allegedly skinning a dead cow.
Being a member of the Una Dalit Atyachar Ladhai Samiti and the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch, Mevani then led a Dalit Asmita Yatra (a protest march for self-respect) from Ahmedabad to Una in which as many as 20,000 Dalits participated. Taking a pledge to give up their traditional occupation of removing cow carcasses, several Dalits women from across the state came together and demanded justice for the Una victims. The protest march culminated on August 15, 2016 resulting into the arrest of most of the vigilantes involved in the flogging.
The Dalit rights activist also demanded that every landless Dalit should get five acres of land, which, he said, is rightfully theirs. Knocking the door of courts to protesting on the streets in the name of ‘rasta roko’ and ‘rail roko’, Mevai has pursued cases of such Dalits who have been allotted land on paper but not given physical possession of the same.
Mevani has been leading the Ambedkarite movement in Gujarat where Dalits comprise about seven per cent of the total population of the state.
Born on December 11, 1982, in Ahmedabad district of Gujarat, Mevani did his schooling from Swastik Vidyalaya and Vishwa Vidyalay Madhaymik Shala in the district. He completed his graduation in English literature in 2003 from HK Arts College in the same city and received Diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication.
The activist worked as a reporter for a Gujarati magazine, Abhiyan from 2004 to 2007. He also completed his Bachelor of Law degree arom DT Law College, Ahmedabad in 2013.
In a recent development, Mevani has announced that he will be contesting as an independent candidate from Banaskantha’s Vadgam for the 2017 Gujarat assembly elections 2017, which is going to poll in the two-phases on December 9 and 18. He announced this on the last day of filing of nominations in phase-1. He tweeted: “Friends, I m contesting from Vadgam-11 seat of Banaskantha district of Gujarat as an independent candidate. We shall fight, we shall win.
Appealing to other parties not to field a candidate in Vadgam, Mevani said that his fight is directly between him and BJP. Showing confidence that he will get the Dalit and Muslim votes, He said, “Vadgam has a huge Dalit and Muslim Population which will support me. There are also a large number of OBC members. The Bananskantha Dalit Sangathan is very strong in the area and it will work in our favour.”
Following this, as a part of an agreement with Mevani, the Gujarat Congress has asked its sitting MLA Manibhai Vaghela to not contest from Vadgam. So, now, the Dalit face will be in a direct contest with BJP’s Vijay Chakravarthi.
Asserting that his aim is to oust the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) from power, Mevani had earlier this month, said he would neither extend support to any political party nor share stage with them.
Earlier, Mevani had met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and said he agreed to include 90 per cent of his demands in the party’s manifesto.