Mumbai: Hours after a criminal complaint was filed against Dalit activist and newly elected Gujarat legislator Jignesh Mevani and Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Umar Khalid for “giving inflammatory speeches" in Pune on 31 December, the Mumbai police on Thursday denied permission to an event where the two leaders were scheduled to speak.
A notice issued under Section 149 of the Criminal Procedure Code by Sunil Ghosalkar, senior police inspector of Juhu police station, to Sachin Bansode, president of the Mumbai unit of Chhatra Bharati, the organisation which hosted the event, asks the organisers to cancel the event as “it may pose a threat to the state’s law and order situation in the wake the Bhima-Koregaon violence in Pune on 1 January and its backlash in Mumbai the next day".
The notice mentions that “some sections of the society have opposed the statements made by Mevani and Khalid and their presence at the event is likely to create a serious law and order situation in Maharashtra".
Both Mevani and Khalid attended a conference called ‘Elgar Parishad’ near Pune’s Shaniwarwada on 31 December where they gave a call to defeat the modern day “Peshwas" like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Pune was the seat of power for the Peshwas, who were Brahmins, and—as per the Dalit narrative—oppressors of the lower castes especially towards the decline of their power.
On Wednesday evening, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who holds the home portfolio, said at an event that though Maharashtra by and large maintained social harmony, “outsiders" who resorted to inflammatory speeches were trying to create social tensions among different castes. Fadnavis did not name the “outsiders".
After issuing this notice to the organisers, the Mumbai police also detained a number of student-activists of Chhatra Bharati including its president Datta Dhage after they refused to leave Bhaidas Auditorium, Vile Parle suburb in Mumbai, the venue of the proposed ‘All India Students Summit 2018’.
Protesting against the denial of permission for the event which they claimed was planned two months ago, activists of Chhatra Bharati staged demonstrations at the Juhu police station as well as at the venue. Sagar Bhalerao, Chhatra Bharti vice-president, told news agency ANI that both Mevani and Khalid were invited to speak at the event and this was fixed much earlier.
Maharashtra Janata Dal (United) chief and member of state legislative council Kapil Patil, who had rebelled against JD(U) after it joined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), was also detained by the police after he protested against the denial of permission. “The government is trying to muffle the voice of students. A government which cracks down on students is unfit to govern," Patil told reporters outside the venue.
Chhatra Bharati’s Twitter handle describes itself as an ‘independent student organisation with a big tent for social liberalism, progressivism, and meritocracy’. Apart from Mevani and Khalid, it had also invited student leaders from other states like Richa Singh from Allahabad, Bedabrata Gogoi from Assam, and Oradip Narwal from Haryana. The police notice also mentions these names.
Meanwhile, the Vishrambagh police station in Pune on 4 January morning filed a First Information Report (FIR) against Mevani and Khalid on the basis of a complaint made by Pune resident Akshay Bikkad.