Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani was arrested on Wednesday night by the Assam Police for his tweets about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Deccan Herald reported.
Mevani was arrested in Palanpur city at 11.30 pm and then taken to Ahmedabad, his aide Suresh Jat told PTI. From there, Jat said, Mevani was flown to Assam.
At the time of his arrest, the Assam Police refused to mention the charges against Mevani. Following protests by a group of Congress leaders and his supporters at the Ahmedabad airport, the police showed a document that said that a case had been filed against him for his tweets.
Mevani had extended support to the Congress in September but did not join the party, saying that he is an Independent MLA from the Vadgam constituency.
The case against him was filed on a police complaint by Arup Kumar Dey, a resident of Bhabanipur in Kokrajhar district in Assam. The complaint said Mevani wrote on Twitter that “Modi worships and considers [Nathuram] Godse as God”. Godse had assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in 1948.
The complainant also mentioned the MLA’s advise to Modi to appeal for peace and harmony during his April 20 visit to communal violence-hit sites in Gujarat. The tweet, according to Dey, “has the propensity to disturb public tranquillity, prejudicial to maintenance of harmony among a certain section of people”.
The two tweets were posted by Mevani on April 18 and have been withheld by Twitter on “legal demand”.
Mevani has been charged with India Penal Code Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 153A (promoting enmity between communities), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts to outrage religious feelings), 504 (insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 505(1)(b),(c),(2) (whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report likely to cause any officer not to discharge his duty, cause fear to the public, incite a community to commit offences against another community) and Section 66 of Information Technology Act.
The first information report was registered in Assam’s Kokrajhar police station.
On Thursday evening, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told reporters that he was not aware of Mevani’s identity, PTI reported.
“I don’t know. Who is he?” Sarma said, on being asked about the Gujarat MLA’s arrest.
Meanwhile, Assam Congress chief Bhupen Borah said that the Assam Police’s action smacked of a conspiracy.
“Police did not give details of the FIR based on which Mevani was arrested,” he said. “Mevani has always been vocal against the BJP and the RSS.”
Borah said that cases of murder, dacoity and other crimes were rising in the state, but that the police were more concerned about a tweet than the protection of citizens.
Gujarat Congress president Jagdish Thakor and other party leaders shouted slogans against the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Ahmedabad airport to condemn Mevani’s arrest, PTI reported.
Some Dalit groups have also announced programmes in Ahmedabad and other parts of the state such as Mehsana to protest against Mevani’s arrest.
“Treating a public servant as a criminal at night is condemnable,” the Gujarat Congress said.
In a tweet, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi condemned Modi for trying to “crush dissent by abusing the state machinery.” He added, “But you can never imprison the truth.”
At a press conference, Congress General Secretary Randeep Surjewala asked if it is a crime to appeal for communal harmony in the country. “Do they [BJP and Modi] think they can trample on the Constitution and murder rule of law in broad daylight?” he asked.
These voices will not cower down, Surjewala said, adding that the central government only knows how to spread fear and hatred.