Ahmedabad: In a Wednesday midnight swoop a team of the Assam Police whisked away North Gujarat MLA and firebrand Dalit leader Jigesh Mevani from a State guest house in Palanpur town bordering Rajasthan on charges stemming from a Tweet that he had posted.
While Assam Director-General of Police Bhaskarjyoti Mahanta could not be reached on his WhatsApp number, his Gujarat counterpart told this correspondent, “Yes, they had our permission and the Banaskantha district administration provided local support.”
Asked about the specific charge against Mevani, DGP Bhatia only said, “That you ask the Assam police.”
The FIR filed by one Anup Kr. Dey with the Kokrajhar Police Station is regarding Mevani’s Tweet in which he had urged the prime minister to make an appeal to the public for peace and harmony in areas such as Himmatnagar, Khambat and Veraval. The places had witnessed violence between two communities on the occasion of Ram Navami.
Since then, the missive has been withheld by the Twitter administration.
The FIR claims that “the circulation of the Tweet has led to widespread criticism, has the propensity to disturb public tranquillity and is prejudicial to maintenance of harmony among a certain section of people.”
It goes on to claim, “It is more likely to incite a section of the masses belonging to a certain community to commit an offence against another community and as such has the tendency to destroy the social fabric.”
The letter dated April 19, 2022, was take cognizance of by the Kokrajhar police and the Superintendent of Polie ordered an investigation; within 24 hours Mevani was picked up without the latter being given even a copy of the FIR.
Even as a team of the Assam Congress Legal Cell reached Kokrajhar to help him, widespread protests broke out against the arrest by the
Assam Police which does not have any jurisdiction in Gujarat.
The top Gujarat Congress leadership had met Jignesh late last night before he was whisked away. Reacting to the arrest, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “Modi ji, you can try to crush dissent by abusing the state machinery. But you can never imprison the truth.”
Actress Swara Bhasker asked why Mevani has been arrested for his tweets. She described him as one who always stood up against injustice and extended solidarity to the marginalised.
Gujarat Congress working president and Mevani’s friend Hardik Patel smelled something fishy in the arrest and warned the government that if something happened to Mevani then the government would be responsible. “Now, MLAs are also not safe in this country,” he tweeted.
Support for Mevani came from Pratik Sinha, founder of Alt News; the latter tweeted that Assam police travelling all the way to Gujarat to arrest Mevani over a harmless tweet, which had got nothing to do with Assam, is the latest example of the BJP blatantly misusing institutions to target members of the opposition.