In the latest blow to the Congress in Gujarat, ahead of state assembly polls, Dalit community leader and MLA Jignesh Mevani has been sentenced to six months in jail, in the 2016 rioting case. The Ahmedabad Sessions Court, on Friday, found Jignesh Mevani and 18 other Dalit leaders guilty, and charged them with “rioting and unlawful assembly”, during a protest near Gujarat University. The court, however, suspended their sentence and has asked them to submit their reply by October 17, according to the news agency PTI.
The development comes ahead of the Gujarat Assembly polls that are expected to be held later this year, in December.
Mevani, who is also the working president of the Congress in Gujarat, was arrested along with his fellowmen for holding “protest and inciting violence” near Gujarat University. The protesters were demanding to change the name of the state’s “Kanoon Bhawan” to one after Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar.
An FIR was registered against Mevani under sections 143 (unlawful assembly) and 147 (rioting) of the Indian Penal Code, with various sections of the Gujarat Police Act.
One of the accused died during trial. Prominent Dalit leader Mevani had won the 2017 assembly election as an independent candidate with the support of the Congress. Later, the Congress party made him the working president of its Gujarat unit.
Neither the Gujarat Congress nor Mevani himself has reacted to the latest development.
Earlier, the Vadgam MLA was sentenced to three months in jail for holding a protest called “Azadi Kooch”, in 2017, without taking permission from local authorities. The court has granted bail to Mevani and his associates on the condition that they are not allowed to leave the state. In April, the 42-year-old leader was picked up from his home state Gujarat, by Assam Police, in a midnight operation, and taken to Ahmedabad by road.
Soon after Mevani’s arrest, Gujarat Police clarified the matter and said that a case was registered by Assam Police after Mevani made a controversial tweet two days back. With regard to the same, a case was registered against the Congress MLA under non-bailable sections like creating enmity between two communities, insulting the community, and disturbing the atmosphere of peace.