Rights

‘Rail Roko’ to Derail Vibrant Gujarat Summit Ends With 18 Arrests

Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch leader Jignesh Mevani was arrested along will several others after delaying the Rajdhani Express at the Kalupur railway station for 20 minutes. They have since been released on conditional bail.

Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani organised a 'rail roko' on January 11 that delayed the Rajdhani express by 20 minutes. Credit: Damayantee Dhar

Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani organised a ‘rail roko’ on January 11 that delayed the Rajdhani express by 20 minutes after declaring his intention to disrupt the Vibrant Gujarat Summit. Credit: Damayantee Dhar

Ahmedabad: Jignesh Mevani, Dalit leader and convener of Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch (RDAM) was arrested on Wednesday, January 11, while trying to halt the Rajdhani Express at the Kalupur railway station in Ahmedabad.

Several others, including Subodh Parmar (co-convener of RDAM) and Rakesh Meharia (core team member of RDAM), were also arrested at the ‘rail roko‘ (stop the trains) protest.

Advocate Govindbhai Parmar, who had taken up the case of arrested RDAM members, stated that conditional bail has been granted to Mevani, Parmar, Meharia and others by Metropolitan Court number five at around 6 pm on Thursday, January 12.

At the protest, some women were also reportedly manhandled by the police before being arrested by the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and the Government Railway Police (GRP).

Protests have been brewing since January 9 when Mevani declared his intention to disrupt the Vibrant Gujarat Summit and called it a ‘fraud’ in a message sent to the media via WhatsApp.

“Countless MoUs (memorandum of understanding) are being signed and yet the issue of unemployability among the Gujarati youth remains. There is no answer to the question of how many jobs are created after every Vibrant Gujarat Summit,” Mevani said while being taken away by the RPF.

“The Gujarat government has land to give away to corporate giants but not to landless Dalits and farmers. Landless farmers of Baroda have been trying to protest but about 150 police personnel were deployed to curb the protest. The government never showed such promptness in giving away land to Dalits and farmers,” added Mevani.

“The protestors came suddenly out of nowhere. Jignesh Mevani climbed up the engine of the train while ordering about 20 women of his group to squat on the track as a result of which the Delhi bound Rajdhani that was scheduled to leave at 5.40 pm from platform ten got delayed by 20 minutes,” stated Satya Prakash, senior divisional security commissioner, Ahmedabad division, Western Railway.

“In case of such protests, the RPF should have been previously informed by the leader, which Mevani did not. However, the matter is at the discretion of the GRP now,” added the officer.

Mevani and the RDAM during their agitation. Credit: Damayantee Dhar

Mevani and the RDAM during their agitation. Credit: Damayantee Dhar

Parmar – who has also been handling the Una flogging incident for the Sarvaiyas and the murder case of Lalji Sarvaiya – said 13 women protestors were released at 12:30 am, while charges were pressed against 18 men, including Mevani, Parmar and Meharia.

“The charges pressed are under Sections 8/2017, 143, 147, 332 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code and under section 153 of the Indian Railway Act,” Parmar said.

Noticeably, Mevani was arrested from his residence on January 10, after he threatened to disrupt the Vibrant Gujarat Summit. A police team knocked on his door at Meghaninagar, Ahmedabad, early in the morning and picked up Mevani, only to release him at 10 pm on the same day.

After being released, the next day, Mevani along with other members of the RDAM went to submit a memorandum to the collector, stating their demands and the reasons for the protest. However, Mevani said that they were not entertained by the officials. Hence he resorted to the rail roko agitation later in the day.

Sagar Rabari, general secretary of the Khedut (Farmers) Samaj, and Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti leader Atul Patel were also detained on January 10 for declaring their support for Mevani. Officials said that the duo had been arrested for violating the Ahmedabad police commissioner’s notification under section 144 of CrPC that prohibits the gathering of four or more people. The notification from city police commissioner came because of the Vibrant Gujarat Summit and the presence of the prime minister and other VIPs in the city.

Piyush Patel, joint commissioner of police of sector one of Ahmedabad also stated that Mevani and Rabari had been arrested after an FIR was lodged against them on January 9 at Vadaj police station.

A protest was to be carried out from Adalaj – a spot about ten kilometres away from Mahatma Mandir at Gandhinagar – to the venue of the summit. The announcement of the protest, however, led to the arrest of the leaders.

Mevani revived his plan for a rail roko agitation after nearly three months. The RDAM had previously declared a rail roko on October 1, 2016, at Maninagar railway station, which was the state assembly constituency of the prime minister when he was chief minister of Gujarat.

However, the much publicised agitation was called off by Mevani after the Gujarat government had agreed to hold talks with the RDAM. Since then, the RDAM has been trying negotiate the issue of allotting land to landless Dalits. However, the matter is far from resolved. About 5,68,73 acres of land across Gujarat remain allotted to Dalits only on paper and is wrongfully possessed by people of higher castes.