Jignesh Mevani, independent Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in Gujarat, has been arrested from Palanpur for an “offensive” post on Twitter. Acting on a first information report (FIR) filed in Kokrajhar district in Assam, the Assam Police arrived in Gujarat and without notice even to the local police began questioning Mevani from 11.30 p.m. on April 20 until the early hours of the morning on April 21.
Mevani’s close aides say the police arrested him after several hours of interrogation, following which they took him to an undisclosed destination. Mevani’s team was told the MLA would be flown to Assam for further questioning and could face the possibility of imprisonment. Anand Yagnik, Mevani’s lawyer, says every effort will be made to free Mevani. Activists and supporters gathered in large numbers at Ahmedabad airport to protest the arrest. One of Mevani’s aide told Frontline: “The arrest came out of nowhere. We were not given any notice. We did not even know an FIR had been filed. We were not even given a copy of the FIR.”
Apparently, a tweet posted by Mevani on April 18 antagonised a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporter in Assam, leading him to file an FIR. In the tweet, which is now withheld by the social media platform, Mevani appeals to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who “considers Godse as God”, to use his influence to maintain peace in the areas of Himmat nagar, Khambat and Veraval which witnessed communal violence recently.
The FIR was filed by one Anup Kumar Dey from Babanipur village in Kokrajhar district of Assam. Dey says in the FIR: “The circulation of the Tweet published in the (sic) Twitter has caused widespread criticism and has the propensity to disturb public tranquillity, prejudicial to maintenance of harmony among certain sections of people.” Other charges in the FIR include promoting enmity between communities.
Following the arrest, the high-handedness of the Assam Police has come in for criticism. Mevani’s team pointed out that Mevani was an elected representative of the State and should not have been subjected to the arrest without due processes being followed.