As the Bhima-Koregaon caste conflict is finally dying down, the protests became quite a vocal issue across Maharashtra and India. The Maharashtra bandh on January 3 (Wednesday) was the retaliation of the conflict which happened in Pune on January 1, 2018, celebrating the heroics of the Dalit community to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle of Koregaon. The issue quickly spread like a wildfire and it has put the focus on a certain individual named Jignesh Mevani.

Who exactly is Jignesh Mevani?

The 35-year-old social activist turned politician Jignesh Mevani is an independent MLA from the Vadgam constituency of the Gujarat legislative assembly. He had fought elections in the 2017 assembly elections under the pretext of ruling dispensation’s (BJP) atrocities against the Dalits and the marginalised section. The main issue that Mevani has been highlighting is the equality and fair treatment to the Dalit community in social, political and other spheres of life.

Rise to prominence

Mevani came to the limelight during the flogging of Dalit youths which took place in Una in 2016 and was the main leader who challenged the supremacy of the BJP-led state in Gujarat and was also the responsible for mobilisation of youth during the atrocities. Mevani has been an open critic and staunch dissenter of the right-wing forces and has taken pot shots at Prime Minister Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah for their contempt for the OBCs and marginalised sections of the society.

Popular choice

During the run-up to the Gujarat elections, Mevani was in constant touch with Congress president Rahul Gandhi and other youth agitators like Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakore and was telling people to fight for their rights and have a say in the running of the state. The decision to fight as an independent candidate was a shrewd move considering he had an understanding with Congress and won the election handsomely in the Dalit-dominated area and said that people are looking for an alternative and PM Modi is fast losing his sheen and popularity and openly debunked the Gujarat model of development.

Blame game over agitation

The recent Dalit uproar in Maharashtra has been blamed on Jignesh Mevani and JNU student leader Umar Khalid by the Maharashtra government and right-wing forces and an FIR has been lodged and an event in Mumbai was cancelled as well. Mevani has categorically denied his role in giving an inflammatory speech and has said that there is a conspiracy to tarnish the image of an elected representative.

Mevani is slowly and steadily making a name for himself in the Indian politics and is taking the BJP on issues which are very direct, personal and is coming across as a face of downtrodden and neglected sector of the country and in process is also using his Dalit identity to become a messiah for the community and is preaching about nationalism and unity to take on the opposition forces.