A local court in Assam’s Kokrajhar on Thursday rejected arrested Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani’s bail petition and sent him to three-day police custody.
Mr. Mevani, an independent MLA from Vadgam, was arrested by the Kokrajhar district police from a circuit house at Palanpur in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district on Wednesday midnight and brought to Assam on Thursday.
His arrest for an allegedly controversial tweet against Prime Minister Narendra Modi was based on a complaint lodged by Arup Kumar Dey, a BJP executive member in the Bodoland Territorial Council. The FIR was registered at the Kokrajhar police station on April 19.
The police had sought 14-day custody of Mr. Mevani. Granting three-day custody after hearing his counsel, the court of the chief judicial magistrate said the MLA could not be taken anywhere outside Kokrajhar during police custody.
The Congress had sent a team of lawyers to Kokrajhar to secure bail for him.
Soon after his arrest, Mr. Mevani had told reporters in Gujarat that he was not given a copy of the First Information Report (FIR) although he was told the arrest pertained to his now-removed tweet.
“I had appealed for peace. I said in a tweet that peace should be maintained given the atmosphere in the country where efforts are being made to break communal unity,” Mr. Mevani said.
“I am surprised that an FIR was lodged against me for a call on the maintenance of peace. This shows the real picture of the government but I am not afraid,” he added.
The BJP leader’s complaint said Mr. Mevani took to Twitter to say “Prime Minister Narendra Modi worships and considers (Nathuram) Godse as God”. Referring to the MLA’s advice to the Prime Minister to appeal for peace and harmony during his April 20 visit to communal violence-affected places in Gujarati, the complainant said the tweet “has the propensity to disturb public tranquillity, prejudicial to maintenance of harmony among a certain section of people”.
“It is more likely to incite a section of the masses belonging to a certain community to commit any offence against other community and as such, has the tendency to destroy the social fabric of different communities residing in this part of the country,” the FIR said.
Mr. Mevani’s arrest has angered Congress and some other parties. “Modiji, you can try to crush dissent by abusing the state machinery. But you can never imprison the truth,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted, using #DaroMat and #SatyamevaJayate.
“Do they think that appealing for communal amity, brotherhood and cohesion is now a crime in this country? Is communalisation and spreading hate and fear the only mantra that this government has,” he added.
Senior Assam Congress MLA Debabrata Saikia asked if the Assam police had no other work. “The State is reeling under crimes against women, dead bodies are being recovered in Guwahati city on daily basis and they flew to Gujarat to arrest Mevani over a tweet? This is ironical and condemnable,” he said.
Raijor Dal chief and MLA Akhil Gogoi also criticised Assam’s BJP-led government on Mr. Mevani’s arrest while the minority-based All India United Democratic Front committed legal help to him.
The only reaction from the BJP came from Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma who expressed ignorance about the arrest, stating that the police had not briefed him about it.