Ramdas Athawale, a cabinet colleague of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has come out in the defence of the Gujarat MLA, Jignesh Mevani, exonerating him of charges of inciting violence at Bhima-Koregaon in Pune district on 1 January.
This comes after several right-wing TV channels including Arnab Goswami’s Republic’s campaign to defame Mevani and JNU student Umar Khalid. Pune police too had registered a case against Jignesh Mevani for a “provocative speech.”
Speaking to reporters on Saturday after meeting Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Athawale, himself a prominent Dalit leader, said there was tension in the area even prior to the 200th anniversary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle on January 1.
Dalits visiting the war memorial at Bhima-Koregaon had come under attack allegedly the members of Hindutva brigade on 1 January. Dalit leaders had blamed certain pro-Hindutva leaders, who were opposed to the anniversary celebrations, for the attacks, while the latter sought to blame Mevanis “provocative speech”, which was delivered a day earlier.
“Jignesh is not responsible for the violence at Bhima- Koregaon. There was tension in the area prior to January 1. I had visited the place and the tension had eased. So, I had returned to Delhi on December 31. On the same day, Jignesh had delivered his speech at the Shaniwar Wada in Pune. He had not gone to Bhima-Koregaon. Some groups had held a meeting at night and the violence took place on January 1,” the Union minister of state for social justice was quoted by PTI.
“I have congratulated Jignesh on his Assembly election victory. It is good that a young, fresh Dalit face is emerging. My advice to him is that he should focus on uniting the society and not dividing it,” said Athawale, who heads a faction of the Republican Party of India (RPI).
Meanwhile, the Dalit rights activists and supporters have launched a counter campaign to what they said will expose the lies propagated by Republic and certain other right-wing channels.
A video of Dalit rights activists reminding a Republic representative of his past association with Youth Forum, which was allegedly known for abusing Dr BR Ambedkar, a prominent Dalit leader and the architect of the Indian constitution.
Never thought that a news channel will get ambushed like this – that too inside the Press Club of India! ??
Clearly, the rise of @jigneshmevani80 signals a new kind of politics – of giving it back, as hard as he gets it – be it the opposition party or the media. ?? pic.twitter.com/ebd5qz7qQq
— Akash Banerjee (@akashbanerjee) January 6, 2018
Supporters of Republic man launched a counter attack arguing that his past association with an ‘NGO’ could not be held against him. The representative in question was recently snubbed by Mevani when he allegedly tried to bully the Dalit leader for a reaction on camera.