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8-min read

Bhim Army's Chandrashekhar Azad Won't Contest 2019 Polls, Says 'Bua' Mayawati Being Misled

Speaking to News18.com, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad spells out his future plans and says he doesn’t want to be known as ‘Ravan’ anymore.

News18.com

Updated:February 25, 2019, 4:56 PM IST
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New Delhi: More than 500 men and women had gathered outside the house of Chandrashekhar Azad in Uttar Pradesh's Chhutmalpur on Sunday just to get a glimpse of the Bhim Army chief, two days after he was released from jail. Most in the crowd were aware of the social and political change Chandrashekhar can bring about. But while he talks of "uprooting the Modi government", the leader is yet to make up his mind on elections.

Speaking to News18.com, Chandrashekhar says he intends to stay a social worker “as of now”. “I will not fight 2019 elections… These people and most in Saharanpur ardently follow whatever I say. I owe a responsibility to them. I am the one they expect leadership and change from. I can't take political sides. I need to be honest and transparent," he said.

Edited excerpts:

Why do think you were released early?

It is simply a case of the BJP government trying to take political mileage. I know for a fact that the government lawyer had told the court that there is no evidence against Chandrashekhar Azad. The Yogi government thought that is the right time to try and appease the Bahujan society and so decided to release me.

What else can the reason be? You suddenly put me behind bars for no fault of mine, then comes NSA. I stay inside for more than a year and suddenly when my release date is around, you set me free? It is not so simple to wrongly influence the Bahujan community now. We are a strong, unified force that understands the wrong from the right. This is nothing but a political gimmick. They have understood that we are potentially a very big vote bank and therefore are doing things to appear as well-wishers.

I want to ask, if the BJP was for us, why were Kasganj riots planned? What happened in Bhima Koregaon? Why are planned riots happening in the name of religion and caste? The claims that the government has done so much for us are nothing but false. This government functions in a manner resembling dictatorship.

Did any BJP leader come to meet you when you were inside?

(Laughs) Many people have met me and are still coming to meet me. They come as social workers, as well-wishers. Now, I don't know what political party they belong to. I get to read in papers the next day that the person concerned was from this or that party. I have not met any BJP party worker who came to me with his/her identity disclosed.

What is your immediate plan of action? Are you fighting the next election?

Immediate plan is to rest for the next two days and then think about the future.

As of now, I am not getting into politics. I plan to work for the social cause from outside the realm of politics.

I went to jail with the thought that you cannot get anything good out of politics, you need to stay a social activist in order to bring about a change in the society. There are 131 members of Parliament and almost 1,100 state ministers. They are doing their politics, but are they able to bring any positive change? They are not, so I better stay away from venturing into that. If there is a social change happening, automatically politics in the country will change for the better. With the kind of anger that there is within the Bahujan community, you never know, we may just topple the government in 2019. BJP may not be in power, thanks to us. Good thing about being in social life is that you are very transparent, unlike a politician.

You talk of "uprooting the Modi government" and supporting the Bahujan Samaj Party's (BSP) ideology while Mayawati constantly calls you a BJP agent, what is the logical conclusion?

I do not support the party, I support the person. I consider Mayawati my bua (paternal aunt) and I have no enmity with her. If she has said anything then, I am sure there are external forces influencing her to give such comments. I owe my allegiance to her because she is one of our own, the same blood.

Though I have not met her personally, I know that she cannot say anything against me. It can also be that people around her are also among those who are oppressors, so they do not want a new face, a new leader from the apparently downtrodden community. Therefore, they may be influencing her. It's a political game.

How do you plan to take the Bhim Army ahead?

We started off with the principle that was taught to us by Kanshi Ram. We want to unite all castes and sub-castes together and have a united country. You must understand that this is our nation as well, not just of those who belong to the so-called higher caste. We want to unite the Bahujan society together so that people for their political motives do not incite violence in which innocent, poor people die. You must have noticed that no minister is ever killed in a riot, their houses are never burnt, only the poor, downtrodden, normal people of the society are the most affected because they are made to fight against each other for electoral and political gains.

We are trying to instil the thought that education is the most important if you do not want to be exploited. Financial stability, which is also a concern, can only be solved through education. We are going around places and teaching people their fundamental rights. For example, if somebody is arrested he/she must know when, where and why and whom to contact. We also try and support families to get their daughters married. We are trying to educate children who cannot afford formal education by running schools. We also collect donations from people to help those families who cannot make ends meet. If you have any suggestion please tell me.

Do you feel the need to regroup resources for Bhim Army given your long absence?

When I was not there, Bhim Army was run by its national and state leadership in the form of Vinay Ratan Singh, Mr Nautiyal, Saharanpur district head Pawan Singh and others. For the mission to run, one needs people who are working, whether I am there or not. Even today, if I sit here at home and do nothing, my presence will not matter. Similarly, when I was in jail, there were people taking care of the entire army, the resources, the ideology behind why we started and the unity, which is most important.

Here it is not about a single person taking prominence, it's about a thought, it's about carrying forward an ideology of revolt against the oppression. We started off by propagating the thought that was given to us by Dr BR Ambedkar. When I went to jail, the army was not this big but now look at it… it's huge, which means that in my absence people have rally worked hard.

What was your day like inside jail for the last 15 months?

I used to stay alone in prison. I found it very difficult to sleep, therefore I used to read a lot. I read books written by Dr BR Ambedkar, I also used to read books written by Kanshi Ram, along with reading about his life. I also read books written by Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Bhagat Singh and Karl Marx. Both inmates and jail authorities gave me books and said that because I cannot sleep, reading will provide more energy and inspiration. Mandela's books taught me patience. Bhagat Singh amazed me as to how a 23-year-old could give up his life. I also associated with him because he was fighting for his principles and for the nation. So am I.

I was also planning my immediate course of action after being released. I was trying to figure a way out to give a befitting reply to the government for putting me inside for no fault of mine. Young boys were also put behind bars. I want to teach the government a lesson for all this. I also prepared a memorandum while I was inside the jail, putting forth all our demands and enlisting everything wrong that happened to us. It is also an action plan that the Bhim Army will take up in time. I also prepared a parameter for all those who want to join the Bhim Army. Only those who fulfil all parameters will be allowed in so that we know that he or she will come to work with a social cause and not a political or personal motive.

How comfortable are you with the use of the word ‘Dalit’?

‘Dalit’ is now used in the country for any and everybody who is downtrodden, oppressed and in need of help. I want to end the use of the word. ‘Dalit’ is a caste, a group of people, not a means to objectify the needy. There can be poor people and oppressed people who may not be ‘Dalits’.

I want to end the caste-system. If the mega-powerful Modi can suddenly one evening come and ban all Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, why can't do the same for castes. That, I think is more viable than taking economic decisions that do not pan out.

Why Ravan?

I want to clear this. It is the media and others who started calling me by that name. I want to end the use of the name and completely despise it. My name is Chandrashekhar Azad and I want to use that. Any media house calling me ‘Ravan’ henceforth will face legal challenges.

Also, now the BJP is using this name to demean me. They want to make it a fight between Ram and Ravan as the Indian society stills hails Ram as hero and Ravan as the monster. They are also indirectly calling all of us monsters.

Let's not use this name henceforth.

| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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