Ahmedabad: Less than a month after his debut in the Gujarat assembly as an independent legislator, Jignesh Mevani’s stellar oratory at Tuesday’s youth rally on Parliament Street in New Delhi—in defiance of the police—has placed him in the spotlight of the national political theatre.

Soon after being elected from the Vadgam assembly constituency, Mevani stormed into the office of the district collector to demand immediate implementation of various development projects that have been sanctioned. He followed this up with a public demonstration in Ahmedabad against the flourishing illicit liquor trade.

His entry into national politics then began at a massive Dalit rally in Bhima-Koregaon near Pune to commemorate 200 years of the Mahars’ victory over the army of the Brahmin Peshwas, following which the Maharashtra police charged him with inciting caste violence in Pune and elsewhere.

On Tuesday, the Yuva Hunkar Rally in the national capital brought together for the first time youth activists from across the country. Not affiliated with any of the established political parties and cutting across caste, creed and gender lines, they came together on a common platform to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “anti-Dalit, anti-poor, anti-minorities” policies and actions.

Besides Mevani, the others who addressed the rally included former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar, Shehla Rashid and Umar Khalid; Akhil Gogoi from Assam; Uttar Pradesh’s Richa Singh, and Manoj Manzil from Bihar. All expressed grave concern at the increasing incidence of violence against Dalits, Adivasis, women and Muslims ever since the Modi government came to power and asked why the Prime Minister was silent on this.

“We will be holding a series of rallies all across the country to mobilize youth against the Modi government,” Mevani announced. These rallies are intended to highlight the Union government’s failure to create adequate job opportunities for educated youth and to provide affordable education. “Modi ji has promised to provide employment to 20 million youth every year. Let him give jobs to at least two million youth first,” Mevani said.

“In the name of ghar wapsi, cow protection and love jihad, the government is trying to deflect attention from the issues of roti, kapda, makaan, shiksha aur chikitsa (food, clothing, shelter, education and health). There is a conspiracy to manufacture a fake enemy. Let me tell the government that you keep taking the side of the Adanis and Ambanis and we will keep talking about the issues of Dalits, Adivasis, minorities and the poor,” Mevani said.

“Why did the police fire on protesting farmers in Madhya Pradesh? Why are students being treated as criminals? Why are leaders like Chandrasekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ of the Bhim Army and Assam-based activist Akhil Gogoi facing (charges under) the National Security Act?” he asked, adding that he will keep raising such questions.

Voicing the same concerns, JNU student leader Rashid said, “Adityanath, who had hundreds of criminal cases against him, withdrew all of them after he became chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, but slapped the draconian National Security Act on Bhim Army leader Chandrasekhar who stood up for the rights of Dalits.”

“When the young people of India hold a peaceful rally, they are arrested under the charge of sedition, but when Bajran Dal activists hoist a saffron flag on a court’s building, the police become mute spectators,” she said.

Bhim Army president Vinay Ratan Singh said he will expand his organization across the country to effectively combat the divisive politics of the Sangh Parivar.

Nachiketa Desai is a senior journalist based in Ahmedabad and tweets at @nachiketadesai. The views expressed are his own.

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