Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani held over tweet on Narendra Modi
Gujarat MLA and Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani was picked up by Assam police on a complaint by an elected representative of the BJP in a midnight operation in the western state for posting a tweet on Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a reference to Nathuram Godse who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi.
The police from the northeastern state went to extraordinary lengths to execute the arrest in Gujarat. The BJP is in power in both states.
Jignesh, a Congress-backed MLA from Vadgam constituency, was arrested from the Palanpur circuit house in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district at 11.30 in the night on Wednesday and flown to Assam early in the morning on Thursday. The MLA was taken to Assam after clearance from an Ahmedabad court.
Kokrajhar chief judicial magistrate N. Boro remanded Jignesh for three days in police custody and directed the police not to take him out of Kokrajhar, said Monoj Bhagabati, the Assam PCC legal cell chairman who appeared for the MLA, on Thursday night. The police had sought 14 days’ remand.
After the recent communal clashes at several places in Gujarat, Jignesh had tweeted two days before Modi’s visit to his home state: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who considers Godse his worshipping deity, is on a tour of Gujarat from April 20. I request him to make an appeal for peace in Himmatnagar, Khambat and Veraval which suffered communal clashes. This is the minimum one expects from the builder of Mahatma Mandir.”
While the Congress said that seeking an appeal for peace from the Prime Minister seems to have become a crime, what appears to have enraged the establishment is the insinuation that Modi treated Godse as his God. Twitter has withheld the post in response to a legal demand.
A second tweet by Jignesh said: “The traitors of Nagpur who didn’t accept the tricolor for decades, the same RSS people were dancing at a mosque with saffron flag in Veraval. Traitors, have some shame. Maintain peace and harmony in the country of Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah Khan.”
Here, too, the description of RSS members as “traitors” may have touched a raw nerve.
Assam police acted on a complaint from Arup Kumar Dey, an executive member of the Bodoland Territorial Council that administers the five districts under the Bodoland Territorial Region in Lower Assam, against Jignesh for his “unfair and unparliamentary” tweet. Dey had won the elections to the council in 2020 as a BJP candidate.
Dey, based in Kokrajhar, told The Telegraph: “Who is this person? Modiji is doing so much for the country and he will post such aaltu-faaltu tweets against Modiji? As active BJP members, can we tolerate such tweets? Being a citizen of India and a BJP member, I cannot endure such unfair and unparliamentary tweets. In this connection, I have lodged an FIR.”
Condemning critics of the Modi regime as “traitors” is routine on social media. Some Congress leaders are subjected to filthy abuses almost daily on Twitter but most public figures do not lodge formal complaints.
Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha poll results, Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the Malegaon blast case, had called Godse a “patriot”. Modi had then said he would “never forgive” her for the remark and the then BJP chief, Amit Shah, had promised disciplinary action against her.
No action, however, was taken. Unofficially, party leaders claimed that Pragya had been let off after she offered a written apology.
After she got elected from Bhopal, Pragya was accused of repeating the Godse remark on the floor of the Lok Sabha in late 2019. Under pressure after the Opposition kicked up a furore, Pragya apologised but claimed she had not called Godse a patriot.
On Thursday, Gujarat Congress president Jagdish Thakor arrived at the airport along with party members at 4 in the morning to protest against the arrest as Jignesh himself vowed to fight the evil designs of the “fascist regime”.
Jignesh and Gujarat Congress leaders said they had not been shown the FIR and did not know what the offence was.
“When we contested, the police produced a document that was shown to the chief judicial magistrate but not shared with us. We are waiting for the detailed order to know what document police produced against the Gujarat MLA,” Bhagabati, who represented Jignesh in court, said at 8pm on Thursday.
Sources said the Kokrajhar police had registered a case and booked Jignesh under IPC sections dealing with criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity between communities, defiling a place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class, intentional insult to provoke breach of peace, causing alarm or fear that induces a person to commit an offence against the State or against public tranquillity, statements promoting enmity, and committing offence in any place of worship apart from provisions of the Information Technology Act.
Reacting to the arrest, Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “Modiji, you can try to crush dissent by abusing the state machinery. But you can never imprison the truth. Daro Mat. Satyamev Jayate.”
Jignesh had pledged to join the Congress at an event last year where another youth activist, Kanhaiya Kumar, secured the party’s membership. Although Jignesh did not formally secure Congress membership as he would have had to resign as MLA, he is effectively a Congressman.
Gujarat will go to the polls at the end of the year, and getting a Dalit activist arrested by the police of another state is fraught with political risks.
While the Gujarat Congress kicked up a ruckus, the party central leadership too mounted a scathing attack on the Modi government.
The party posted several messages highlighting the government’s intolerance, saying: “Those afraid of criticism are afraid of the truth. But the power of the truth cannot be suppressed. The government may be able to crush dissent for now, but it can never vanquish the truth.”
Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala said: “The dictator is now running scared. The self-anointed shahanshah of the country is deeply prejudiced as also running helter and skelter. The arrest of our friend, colleague, Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani, by the police of Kokrajhar, Assam, in Palanpur, Gujarat, just for a tweet asking the Prime Minister to appeal for communal amity and brotherhood in Gujarat reflects the deep-rooted prejudice, scare, fear among those sitting in the citadels of power in Delhi today.”
Surjewala added: “Does the Prime Minister and the BJP think they can browbeat Jignesh Mevani and every voice of this country irrespective of political affiliation, raised for communal amity, for brotherhood? Do they think they can trample upon the Constitution and murder rule of law? Do they think that appealing for communal amity, brotherhood and cohesion is now a crime in this country? Is only communalisation and spreading hate and fear the only mantra that this government does?”
Assam PCC president Bhupen Kumar Borah said: “There have been 12 murders in 13 days in Guwahati. What have the police done? But they can go to Gujarat and arrest a Dalit leader.”
Assam chief minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma said he had not been informed of the arrest.