Four days after an FIR was registered against the newly-elected Gujarat MLA from Vadgam Jignesh Mewani and JNU student Umar Khalid for their alleged involvement in inciting Pune's Bhima-Koregaon violence last week, the former on Tuesday afternoon walked out to Parliament Street in Delhi demanding justice for the Dalit community.
The names of Dalit activist Mewani and Khalid came into the limelight after the duo spoke at the Elgar Parishad on December 31 in Pune to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon.
Mewani, following the Pune violence on Dalits, warned: "On January 9, I will hold the Constitution in one hand and Manu Smiriti in other hand and would like to ask Modi whether this country runs on the Constitution or the Manu Smriti (ancient Hindu legal text)."
A group of Dalits marching towards the war memorial in Bhima Koregaon village were attacked on January 2 which led to widespread violence across Maharashtra — especially in Mumbai.
Yuva Hunkar Rally outside Parliament
The Parliament Street on Tuesday witnessed crowds demanding the release of Chandrashekhar Azad — the founder of the Dalit outfit Bhim Army who was arrested in June 2016 from Himachal Pradesh because he was named the main accused in Thakur-Dalit clashes in Uttar Pradesh's Saharanpur district.
The Delhi Police on Monday said the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had instructed that the rally — permission for which was sought from the cops and denied — to be held elsewhere in the city and not outside Parliament.
However, Mewani defied the order and held the rally amidst heavy security.
A modest crowd including former and current JNU students Kanhaiya Kumar, Shehla Rashid and Umar Khalid, lawyer Prashant Bhushan and Assam farmer leader Akhil Gogoi participated in the rally demanding educational rights, employment, livelihood and gender justice for Dalits.
Many who were part of the rally held posters with images of Azad as they demanded his release.
Later in the day, the organisers claimed a delegation would march towards the prime minister's residence in Delhi's Lok Kalyan Marg and hand over a copy of the Indian Constitution and the Manusmriti — ancient Hindu text — to him, and would ask to choose between the two.
Sucheta De, the national President of All India Students Association (AISA) alleged, "As 2019 is approaching, RSS is hatching conspiracy across various parts of the country through proper planning and by using anti-Dalit, anti-muslim, anti-women hatred as tool to divide the society. The recent Dalit-Maratha clashes are an example.
"To divert the anger of the Marathas who have been suffering due to farmer distress, the RSS-BJP played them against the Dalits at Bhima-Koregaon incident. Now farmers, the youth, and Dalits are on streets against hate conspiracy," De said.
She added, "The Narendra Modi government has failed to address this growing anger and hatred. Jignesh Mewani has taken up the cause of Dalits."
Activist and scholar Swami Agnivesh also lashed out at the Modi regime: "Nothing good has been happening with the Dalits, adivasis and the downtrodden."
He added: "Communal forces are in full force, suppressing Dalits and adivasis. The hope that the people of this country had when Narendra Modi became prime minister is now lost. It has turned out to be a big lie."