Jignesh Mevani argues with police as detained during protests

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Ahmedabad, Feb 18 (IANS) Dalit leader and Gujarat lawmaker Jignesh Mevani was detained by police here on Sunday along with nearly 100 others while staging demonstrations in protest against death of Dalit activist Bhanubhai Vankar.

Mevani broke into heated arguments with police when he was being detained in Saraspur suburb of Ahmedabad.

“Gujarat does not belong to your father… give me your buckle number, I am an elected MLA and you have no business to insult me,” a furious Mevani shouted at a police constable, after he and 100 others were detained.

When police was taking him out of his car, he claimed he was being manhandled and an elected legislator could not be treated like this. The MLA alleged the cops had barged into his car, pulled out the ignition keys and broke them.

Police denied the charges. Joint Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, J.K. Bhatt told reporters: “It is wrong to say that police ill-treated the respected legislator and we will submit our report to the state Assembly about the incident.”

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“He (Mevani) may have misbehaved but we have not. It is normal that there will be some arguments when a person is being detained by police,” he added.

Vankar, 60, had on Thursday set himself on fire at the Patan district collectorate demanding physical possession of land allotted to a Dalit family and was soon after hospitalized with critical burn injuries. He succumbed to his burn injuries on Friday night at a private hospital in Ahmedabad.

What led to widespread anger was that Vankar had resorted to self-immolation on the premises of Patan collectorate in the presence of police, ambulance and fire-fighters after a week-long notice to the authorities. He had been seeking physical and legal possession of the land allotted to the Dalit families by the state government for some time.

This led to a series of protests by Dalit activists across the state on Friday night and Saturday, including in Gandhinagar, Unjha, Chanasma and Patan in north Gujarat and Morbi in Saurashtra, with many resorting to blocking traffic and burning tyres.

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Vankar’s family were refusing to accept the dead body and put forth a charter of seven demands before the state government. The state government sent a delegation comprising the Gandhinagar Collector, Inspector General of Police and Social Empowerment Secretary to talk to the Dalit activists and his family of Vankar. But the meeting failed to break the deadlock.

Although the government claimed to have accepted the key demands of the family, the Dalits wanted a categorical assurance in writing.

Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel told reporters: “We have agreed to all their major demands. We would legally transfer the land in name of the family Bhanubhai Vankar was fighting for, pay a compensation of Rs 8 lakh to the family of Vankar and transfer his family members, who are government employees, closer home.

“The government will also set up an inquiry commission headed by a retired High Court judge or a special investigation team, as agreed by the family of Vankar.”

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This, however, did not stop Mevani from leading a group of his supporters on the SG Highway connecting Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad, causing blockades and stopping traffic.

“The Chief Minister has become shameless. Vijay Rupani, drown yourself in Narmada. Why don’t you die of shame. This is not your father’s Gujarat,” he said and appealed to Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakor to join him in intensifying the stir in the state from Sunday.

“The Chief Secretary must bring out a notification to initiate similar process for landless Dalits across 33 districts of the state. Till then we would continue our fight,” Mevani addeed.

Hardik Patel and OBC leader and Congress legislator Thakor visited Vankar’s family and demanded firm action and justice to the community. Leader of Opposition in Gujarat Assembly Paresh Dhanani also called on the family and expressed solidarity the cause of the Dalits.

–IANS

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