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Congress supporter Jignesh Mevani’s journey from being Mukul Sinha’s sidekick to ‘Dalit leader’ to ‘Independent MLA supporting Congress’

How 'independent' is the 'Independent MLA' Jignesh Mevani from Vadgam, Gujarat.

Jignesh Mevani is a Gujarat-born politician currently serving as a Member of the Gujarat Legislature Assembly as an independent candidate from Vadgam. In September 2021, amid much fanfare, where it was speculated he will be joining the Congress formally, he said that he will support the party instead since his term as an independent MLA was not yet over. Mevani rose to prominence ahead of 2017 Gujarat state assembly elections.

Mevani’s father was a clerk at Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, and his mother was a clerk at Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL). He did his schooling at the Swastik Vidyalaya and then the Vishwa Vidyalay Madhaymik Shala. Mevani did graduation from HK Arts College, affiliated with Gujarat University.

In 2004, he completed a diploma course in Journalism and Mass Communication. Later, ‘lawyer-activist’ Mukul Sinha pursued Mevani to get a degree in Law. He completed his LLB in 2013 from DT Law College and practised as a High Court Lawyer. Mukul Sinha is father of cofounder of propaganda website Alt News, Pratik Sinha.

From 2004 to 2008, he worked as a reporter for the Gujarati Magazine Abhiyan in Mumbai. His early days of activism started with trade union wings. In 2008, he returned to Gujarat. During his college time, he used to idolise Mukul Sinha. Eventually, on his return to Gujarat, Mevani got a chance to meet Mukul Sinha at Jan Sangharsh Manch’s (JSM) office. On the day of the meeting, he joined the organisation as a volunteer.

Jan Sangharsh Manch

Jan Sangharsh Manch was formed by Mukul Sinha and his wife, Nirjhari Sinha. The organisation has been accused of floating theories, refuted by court appointed committees, that then-Chief Minister Narendra Modi had a role in the riots and that the Godhra carnage was not a preplanned conspiracy. Mukul and Nirjhari, along with other so-called activists, fought tooth and nail to call the eyewitnesses of the Godhra carnage liars, as evidenced in the Nanavati-Mehta Commission Report.

The organisation tried to whitewash the Godhra incident in which 59 Karsewaks were burnt alive. They used various narratives like ‘fire was started from inside, ‘short circuit’, and ‘spontaneous scuffle’ to prove the Muslim mob had no role in burning down the train.

As per the Commission’s report, a member of Jan Sangharsh Manch, a ‘civil rights organisation’ started by ‘activist-lawyer’ Mukul Sinha, filed a statement and questioned the criminal conspiracy angle of the state government and claimed that after the ‘evidence’ collected by him, it “appeared to him that burning of coach S/6 was because of the spontaneous scuffle and fight that had taken place between Ramsevaks and Muslim vendors on the platform of Godhra railway station and not because of any conspiracy hatched earlier.”

Mevani’s association with Sinhas

After joining JSM, he led a survey under the organisation in 2009 in Surendranagar and Ahmedabad districts on land allocation to the Dalits. Till 2015, he continued the project and filed multiple RTIs on the process. During these years, he was pursued by Mukul Sinha to get a law degree that he eventually used to fight cases under the organisation’s banner. While he was with Sinha, he also joined Aam Aadmi Party in 2014 and became Gujarat’s Spokesperson for the party.

Speaking to Hindustan Times, Mevani had said, “It was at Mukul kaka’s office where, for the first time, I understood atrocity in the real sense of the term. When I heard stories of undertrials in POTA, I was not able to sleep for many nights.”

In an interview with Dalit Camera, he alleged POTA was being used to target Muslims. Under the organisation, he participated in many trade union strikes, rallies and dharnas. He formed the Gujarat Industrial Security Force Society, which comprised 2,500 members. The whole group sat on a hunger strike in Gandhinagar. On the fourth day, 176 of them fainted.

He further stated that while working with Sinha, he became left-conscious and got aware of the caste and class. Interestingly, during college time, he was not seen as a Dalit or Dalit leader. It was only after joining JSM that he was drawn towards it.

After the death of Mukul Sinha in 2014, Mevani continued fighting cases for JSM in High Court.

Mukul Sinha’s brainchild ‘Truth of Gujarat’

Sinha and his son Pratik had started a propaganda website named “Truth of Gujarat”. It was basically a website to propagate anti-Modi content and spread lies about the carnage of Hindus and whitewash the attack by Islamist mob in the Godhra train burning incident. They tried to blame the victims for their own death.

Notably, in 2004, pro-Congress ‘activist’ Shabnam Hashmi organised a seminar in Delhi “Rebuilding Justice and Hope in Gujarat: The Agenda Ahead”. Amongst those present in the seminar were: actresses Sharmila Tagore and Nandita Das, lawyers Indira Jaisingh and Nitya Ramakrishnan, and journalists Praful Bidwai and Rajdeep Sardesai, along with many known critics of the then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi. They all tried to figure out ways to ‘fix’ Modi legally, where Sinha gave a presentation to ‘prove’ the Muslim mob setting the train to fire was ‘false’ and that the fire was an ‘accident’.

Truth Of Gujarat website was seeded by such propaganda. The website of Truth of Gujarat is no longer functional. The last working archive of the website is from December last year when it seems like the website was hacked. Though there was no direct connection found between Mevani and the Truth Of Gujarat website, but was involved with the Sinhas while they actively worked on the propaganda website. 

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Anurag
Anurag
B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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