PUNE: Newly-elected Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leader Umar Khalid have filed two separate petitions in the Mumbai High Court against the State government (through Senior Police Inspector, Vishrambaug police station, Pune) and complainant Akshay Bhikkad in the wake of a complaint filed against them with the Vishrambaug police.
The petitions were filed seeking quashing of FIRs filed against them at Vishrambaug police station on January 3. They also pleaded that they not be arrested. Mevani filed the petition last week and Khalid on Tuesday.
The petitions stated that the public meeting at Shaniwarwada ended peacefully. There was no call for enmity between any of the communities nor was there any hate speech or call for violence. It added, “No protection was given by the police to members of the Dalit community when they were attacked (in Koregaon-Bhima) nor were any measures taken by the police to control law and order situation when the call for bandh was given. As ‘respondent No.1’ (State of Maharashtra) failed on both counts in maintaining law and order in the state, they falsely filed an FIR against the petitioner to put the entire blame of their failure on the petitioner.”
Mevani stated in his petition that the FIR is filed against him using portions from his speech which says, “If we want to win against the new Peshwai, if we want to take this Bhima Koregaon struggle ahead, if we want to get inspired by this struggle, this won’t happen through electoral politics. I believe that people who are fighting for the people of Maharashtra and Gujarat should be there in the assembly and the Parliament of this country. But annihilation of caste will happen through the struggle on the streets. The rule of one section over another will end only with the struggle on the streets.”
It stated that for an offence to be identified as committed under Section 153A IPC, it is necessary that the intent and outcome of an action would be promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, resident, language where such actions are a prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.
It said nothing done by Mevani promotes enmity between religious groups or is prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.
The petition stated that the FIRs against Mevani and Khalid are politically motivated as he is the political rival of the ruling party in the State and at the Centre, whereas Khalid has consistently taken public positions against the ruling party.Mevani’s petition stated there is a grave risk to his life and he needs protection. He can’t apply for pre-arrest bail in Pune, as the situation is volatile there and fears the police will not protect him, if he is attacked if he goes to Pune to seek anticipatory bail.
The petition filed by Khalid stated the FIR was filed against him using the portion of his speeches which stated, “The Koregaon-Bhima struggle can be made the future, it is time to resist, fight and win, which will be the homage to the martyrs. The end of new Peshwai will be the homage to the martyrs of Koregaon-Bhima.”
His petition stated that his life and the lives of his family members are in danger. On the pretext of the FIR, the State of Maharashtra (through senior inspector, Vishrambaug police station, Pune) will threaten and harass him and expose him and his family to physical harm and danger.
While talking to Sakal Times, Umar Khalid said, “The complaint was politically motivated and some sections of the media indoctrinated by a political party started reporting about it on January 2, whereas the complaint was filed on January 4.” When questioned whether the complaint against Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote was also politically motivated, as the complainant changed her statement later, he said, “I was not aware whether she changed her statement. But it is possible as Bhide and Ekbote are influential people and she must have been pressurised to change it.”
Sakal Times tried contacting Mevani repeatedly but he was unavailable for comment. The Citizens for Justice and Peace, a human rights organisation headed by civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad, has provided legal assistance to Mevani and Khalid to file their petitions in the HC.
Setalvad said, “We support all human rights defenders such as students, people from the Dalit community, basically anyone who defends human rights. Our organisation has provided legal assistance to both of them and will continue to do so to others who are defenders of human rights.”
When contacted, Joint Commissioner of Pune Police Ravindra Kadam said, “We have not received copies of the petitions. Once we receive them, we will present our case before the Honourable Court.”