Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani was on Tuesday remanded to five days’ police custody by a court in Assam’s Barpeta for allegedly assaulting a policewoman. Originally arrested on April 20 over allegedly objectionable tweets about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mevani was granted bail and then arrested again Monday in connection with the assault case. Mevani’s counsel, Angshuman Bora, said the second arrest took place less than 30 minutes after he was given bail in the first case.
Talking to mediapersons following the second arrest, Mevani claimed a ‘conspiracy’ by the BJP and its ideological mentor, the RSS, and said they were targeting him ‘systematically’ to ‘tarnish’ his image. “They have a serious problem with Dalit rights movement,” Mevani told journalists.
Jignesh Mevani is a Dalit leader and an independent MLA from Gujarat’s Vadgam constituency. He was supposed to join the Congress last year but ‘technicalities’ kept them apart. He has, however, said he intends to fight this year’s Gujarat election on a party ticket.
Bora said police have claimed his client assaulted a woman officer while being taken from Guwahati to Kokrajhar by road on Thursday (April 21) – the morning after his arrest in Gujarat.
“Surprisingly, there was no previous mention of this and police disclosed this only on Monday. We were not shown a copy of the first information report (FIR) lodged in Barpeta Road (Police Station) and it was not presented in court as well,” the lawyer said.
Mevani had been held in Gujarat’s Palanpur, where he was arrested, on the night of April 20 and flown to Guwahati the following morning. That arrest was after a complaint by Bodoland Territorial Region executive member and BJP functionary Arup Dey on April 18, police said.
As per an earlier report by Hindustan Times, the FIR said that the circulation of the tweet by Mevani ’caused widespread criticism and caused the propensity to disturb tranquillity, prejudicial to maintain the harmony among a certain section of people’.
The tweets have been deleted; a message says they were ‘withheld in India in response to a legal demand’.
Mevani had initially been remanded to three days’ police custody and then sent to an additional day’s custody on Sunday.
Several Congress and other opposition leaders have slammed the BJP – in power in both Gujarat and Assam – on this issue. Assam Congress chief Bhupen Kumar Borah said police action against Mevani posed a threat to democracy in India and party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said this is ‘supposedly free country’, pointing out that while the Modi government talked about democracy and fundamental rights, Mevani was arrested in Gujarat by an Assam Police team without documents.