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Gujarat cops "detain" Jignesh Mevani, Kanhaiya Kumar, Reshma Patel in Mehsana, "stop" Una anniversary Azadi Kooch

Kanhaiya Kumar, Jignesh Mevani, Reshma Patel
By Our Representative
Tens of activists, including top Gujarat Dalit rights leader Jignesh Mevani, Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Kanhaiya Kumar and Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti leader Reshma Patel, were detained on Wednesday for holding Azadi Kooch or Freedom March from North Gujarat town Mehsana, about 60 kilometres from Ahmedabad.
Azadi Kooch was part of Mevani’s Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar March’s state-wide protests to mark anniversary of the gruesome Una Dalit flogging incident, which shook India last year. Permission for taking out the Azadi March, granted on June 27, was revoked by the Gujarat police on July 8, citing possible law and order problems.
According to Mevani, the permission was cancelled “at the behest of deputy chief minister Nitin Patel.” Patel belongs to Mehsana, and is said to have been feeling jittery over political influence slipping out his hand, with Patels joining Dalits in the protest rally.
Detained Azadi Kooch leaders
The Azadi Kooch began at Somnath Chowk in the afternoon in Mehsana with Dalit and Patel leaders coming together to protest against the Gujarat government.
Those who joined the Azadi Kooch meeting at Somnath Chowk included prominent participants of the week-long Kisan Mukti Yatra, a farmers’ march being taking out across India. It began its Gujarat leg on Tuesday at Vyara in South Gujarat.
Those present included Swarajya Abhiyan’s Yogendra Yadav, CPI-M leader Hannan Mollah, Maharashtra farmers’ leader Raju Shetty, senior Mines and Minerals and People activist Ashok Shrimali, Adivasi Ekta Parishad’s Ashok Chowdhury, Khedut Samaj-Gujarat (KSG) leader Sagar Rabari, and Gujarat Lokhit Samiti’s Nita Mahadev.
Addressing people who had gathered at Somnath Chowk, Yadav said, this was a “great moment” for him, as farmers and Dalits have stood together in their struggle. Soon after the Kisan Mukti Yatra left Mehsana towards Rajasthan to continue with its march, the cops swooped on leaders of the Azadi Kooch.
Kisan Mukti Yatra leaders in Mehsana
“Somnath Chowk is significant, as it is the same spot which saw some of the worst anti-Dalit riots in 1981 and 1985, triggering a Patel-Dalit divide. This was for the first time after so many years that the two communities came on one platform”, Shirmali, who belongs to Gujarat, told Counterview.
Meanwhile, Mevani has claimed, his and his leaders' detention took place immediately after a Sangh Parivar cadre tried to attack him by “seeking to drive his motorbike” through his leg.
Soon after the incident, Mevani appealed to activists across India, though a social media message, to “phone up Gujarat director-general of police Geetha Johri (9978406287), asking her to provide solid police protection and grant permission for Azadi Kooch.”
The Azadi Kooch was proposed to continue for a week, and end at Dhanera, a small town in Banaskantha district, on July 18. A Mevani aide said, they were expecting the Gujarat government to arrest them.
Unza Dalits listen to Azadi Kooch leaders
The police claimed it detained 17 persons, an FIR was registered under IPC section 143 against them for being a part of an illegal assembly, and after some time were let go afterwards.
Late at night, the Azadi Kooch leaders addressed a largely Dalit gathering at Unza town, known for being biggest and richest agricultural marketing yard for cash crops in North Gujarat.

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