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09 January 2018, 09:31 | Melissa Porter
Delhi's Jantar Mantar and Parliament Street turned into a fortress this morning as almost 1,500 police and paramilitary personnel, armed with tear gas and 10 water cannons, took up position to foil the youth rally called by newly-elected Gujarat legislator and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani.
Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani during Hunkar rally at Parliament street in New Delhi on Jan 9, 2018. The rally that began at the Parliament Street was undertaken amidst heavy security presence and massive media coverage. Mevani was reported to hold a rally demanding Dalit rights and release of Chandrashekhar after the government was accused of perpetrating violence against Dalits in Pune violence last week. The newly elected MLA also said that when he fought elections in Gujarat he always spoke about bringing people together. "It is you who has to answer the reason behind violence on Dalits, violence in Saharanpur, in Bhima Koregaon". We do not believe in love jihad.
"We are not love jidad people". "I don't have to answer it but you have to answer me. We will celebrate April 14 (Ambedkar Jayanti) and February 14 (Valentine's Day)". This you have to answer why Rs 15 lakh didn't come in everyone's account, why no jobs to youth? Further targeting Modi, Mevani said he supported the government's "Digital India" initiative but asked the Prime Minister to ensure a technology first "so that no one is made to die inside a sewer".
The rally witnessed a modest turnout and Mevani shared stage with JNU student leaders, including Kanhaiya Kumar, Shehla Rashid and Umar Khalid.
Assam peasant leader and anti-graft activist Akhil Gogoi and senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan were also present, apart from students from JNU, Delhi University, Lucknow University and Allahabad University, among others.
Reacting to Minister of State MoS, Anantkumar Hegde's remarks on the Constitution, Mevani said, "We believe in the constitution and will protect it". He alleged that the BJP was creating communal divisions to rule. "Alpesh Thakor, Hardik Patel and I are being targeted because we demolished their (BJP) pride and arrogance in Gujarat.There's a looming threat to our democracy and Constitution today", he said.Although authorities had maintained till the last minute that Mevani and his supporters did not have permission to hold the event, it seems the rally organisers and Delhi Police reached a compromise later. Almost 15,000 security personnel - armed with water cannons and tear gas - were deployed in areas near Jantar Mantar and Parliament Street in the national capital to prevent protesters from carrying out a march to the Parliament building.
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