Dalit leader, MLA Jignesh Mevani detained

Bhanuprasad Vankar

Gujarat Dalit leader and independent MLA Jignesh Mevani was on Sunday detained by the state police in the wake of the Ahmedabad bandh call given by him in protest against the death of Dalit activist Bhanubhai Vankar, who had immolated himself on Thursday.

This is the second such large-scale Dalit protest in Gujarat since the ones that followed the flogging of four Dalit men in the town of Una in July 2016.

Vankar self-immolated himself on February 15 in Patan, and succumbed to his injuries on February 16. A constable was injured by a stone thrown by protesters in Patan. Agitating over his death, protesters blocked roads and held rallies.

"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".

Vankar had been fighting to get the government to allot land to Hema Vankar and Rama Chamar of Dudhka village. They had repeatedly said that they would not be accepting the mortal remains of the Dalit activist it the government did not assure them in writing that their demands would be fulfilled.

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Another Dalit leader, Naushad Solanki, was also detained by the police.

Amid this, the political climate has heated up in Gujarat with the month-long Budget Session beginning on Monday and the spirited Congress bracing to corner the government on several issues.

The incident has led to widespread outrage among the people, especially those belonging to the Dalit community as they believe govt could have avoided the incident as was already aware that something like this might take place.

J K Bhatt, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch), denied having ill-treated the legislator. "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 police it seems is working on the directive of the state government. "The ruling government wants us to end our protests so they do not face any embarrassment in the assembly session", alleged Mehul Manguben, a Dalit activist and a close aide of Mevani.

Sharing a post on Twitter, Mevani said, "Jignesh Mevani was pulled out of the auto in a very uncivilised manner, his vehicle keys were broken and detained by the police while on the way to a peaceful protest at Ambedkar statue in Sarangpur, Ahmedabad". Dalits have been demanding five acres of land for every family as their constitutional right.

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