Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani on Friday denied making any inflammatory speech in Pune and said he was being targeted by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
A day after a first information report was filed against him and Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Umar Khalid for their alleged "provocative" speeches during an event in Pune on December 31, the Gujarat MLA said he smelt a "conspiracy".
Khalid echoed Mevani and said he was being targeted in an attempt to exonerate the real accused who are closely associated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, Mevani said, "Neither did I make any inflammatory speech nor did I take part in the bandh in Maharashtra. Ask any constitutional expert to analyse my speech and find anything that is derogatory."
Mevani said he suffered from a migraine after the public meeting on December 31.
"After the meeting, I was down with a terrible migraine. Neither did I indulge in any activity in Mumbai nor did I take part in the bandh or visit Bhima Koregaon," he said.
"Despite all this, when I am being targeted, I smell a conspiracy. I am being targeted by the BJP and Sangh," Mevani told reporters at the Press Club of India.
Mevani and Khalid had attended the Elgar Parishad, an event organised to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima Koregaon in Pune on December 31.
According to a complaint filed by a Pune resident, their "provocative" speeches were aimed at creating disharmony and rift between the communities, which led to violence at Bhima Koregaon on January 1.
"Bhima Koregaon is 30 km from Pune and I did not speak anywhere after the 31st public meeting. Despite having video evidence of the violence, it is ridiculous that we are being targeted. This is a part of an agenda to divert attention from Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote," Khalid said.
Ekbote of Samast Hindu Aghadi and Bhide of Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan are in the spotlight for allegedly "orchestrating" the violence at Bhima Koregaon.
"Sambhaji Bhide was called tapasvi or mahapurush by Modi during a rally in Maharashtra in January 2014. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was also present," Khalid added.
Mevani, the newly elected MLA from Vadgam, also urged the prime minister to break his silence on incidents of violence against Dalits in the country.
"Why is PM Modi, who is claiming to be an Ambedkarite, silent? He must clarify his position on whether Dalits have the right to hold peaceful rallies," Mevani said.
During his 'Social Justice' rally on January 9, Mevani said he would carry the Manusmriti and Constitution to the PM's office and ask him to choose between the two.
Normal life was crippled in Maharashtra on January 3 due to a bandh called by Dalit groups to protest the violence on the anniversary of the battle fought 200 years ago.
Dalit groups commemorate the British victory against the Peshwas of Maharashtra in the Bhima Koregaon battle as it is believed that soldiers from the Mahar community were part of the East India Company's forces. The Peshwas were Brahmins, and the victory is seen as a symbol of Dalit assertiveness.
IMAGE: Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani addresses a press conference in New Delhi on Friday. Photograph: ANI