Mevani, Kanhaiya Detained, Booked as Gujarat Police Withdraw Permission for March

The Azadi Kooch, or freedom march, timed for the first anniversary of the Una incident when Dalit youths were assaulted by cow protection vigilantes, was to press for Dalit land rights in the state.

File photo of Jignesh Mevani and Kanhaiya Kumar at a rally in Una in September 2016 Credit: PTI

Mehsana (Gujarat): Police today detained Dalit agitation spearhead Jignesh Mevani, student leader Kanhaiya Kumar and 15 others and registered a case against them for taking out their ‘Freedom March’ on the first anniversary of the Una flogging incident without permission.

Four Dalit youths were brutally assaulted by ‘cow protection’ vigilantes in Una, Gujarat on July 11, 2016. One year later, the victims and their families are still waiting for justice.

Mevani, who is the convener of the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch, had invited Kumar to take part in the Azadi Kooch (Freedom March) here today.

A considerable number of Dalit activists first gathered at Somnath Chowk here before embarking on the march towards Banaskantha district this afternoon, the police said.

The Mehsana district authorities had cancelled the permission granted earlier to Mevani for taking out the march.

“We have detained 17 persons from Fatehpura circle”, they said.

Later, an FIR was registered under IPC section 143 against them for being a part of an illegal assembly.

“We did not arrest them. They were let go afterwards,” an official of the Mehsana ‘A’ division police station, where the FIR has been lodged, said.

Why the police permission to march was withdrawn is not clear.

As per the schedule, ‘Freedom March’ will end at Dhanera in Banaskantha district of north Gujarat after one week.

The key agenda of this march is to mount pressure on the Gujarat government to allocate agricultural land to Dalits, so that they can start a new life with dignity, Mevani had announced last month.

After being released, co-convener of the manch, Kaushik Parmar, who is also named in the FIR, announced that the march will continue as they have the permission to enter Unjha, their next destination.

“We have been released by police after the FIR was registered against us. We have decided to continue our march.

We are planning to reach Unjha by tonight,” Parmar told PTI.

While addressing people at Somnath chowk before the march, Kumar, who is facing sedition charges stemming from allegations based on a doctored video of a purported event at JNU last year, attacked the BJP governments at the Centre and in Gujarat, claiming that atrocities on Dalits and Muslims have increased under them.

He also alleged that people who dare to speak the truth are being booked under sedition charges to silence them.

In Una, Dalit youths were paraded and flogged for allegedly skinning a dead cow, an incident that caused nation-wide outrage after its video went viral.

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