Mumbai Bandh: Jignesh Mevani's arrival to the city may stir political pot

Jan 03, 2018, 12:38 IST | Hemal Ashar

Gujarat's Dalit leader expected in city today evening; felicitation function postponed not cancelled

Jignesh Mevani
Jignesh Mevani

Dalit activist and leader Gujarat's Jignesh Mevani, recently elected independent MLA from Vadgam, is expected in Mumbai today. Mevani was earlier to be felicitated in Worli, by what a host of organisers claimed were "secular, progressive organisations and individuals who have come together to celebrate his victory", adding "Jignesh's victory signifies hope for the resistance against authoritarian, fascist and communal forces".

Heavy police presence in Chembur after members of RPI come out onto the streets to continue Pune protest. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Heavy police presence in Chembur after members of RPI come out onto the streets to continue Pune protest. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Delayed celebration
"We've postponed the function as it doesn't seem right that one Dalit leader calls for a bandh and another is felicitated; there is scope for misunderstanding too," said city activist Javed Anand. Said Comrade Prakash Reddy, secretary-member of the Communist Party of India (CPI), Maharashtra, "There were a number of organisations, including numerous trade unions, that wanted to felicitate Mevani. This has been postponed because of concerns that people won't be able to reach the venue in time. We, at CPI, wanted to mark his win; we had supported him because we believe in a classless and casteless society." Reddy claimed the "real" culprits in these protests were "right-wing extremists".

Political conflict
It is evident though that the Dalit vs. Maratha protest has morphed into a bigger conflict, and a hugely political one at that, "with the bigger aim of dislodging the Narendra Modi government," said lawyer-activist S Balakrishnan. He added, "The Dalits are being misguided and used by those with mischievous designs to create unrest and dislodge the government here." Balakrishnan also slammed Mevani as a "media creation and new poster boy".

Teesta Setalvad, however, said angrily that she failed to see why 'they' (by which she meant presumably her organisation Sabrang) were being "targeted by media". "It is not just Sabrang; there were at least 60 organisations that were all going to be present at the felicitation function. Why are we being singled out?" she asked, simply saying "probably" when asked if he would be in city today.

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