How 'Ravan' Chandrashekhar of Bhim Army Was Caught After 30-day Hunt
Over the last month, 30-year-old lawyer Chandrashekhar Azad, leader of the Bhim Army, has become a polarising figure. For supporters, he is the true inheritor of Dalit leader Kanshi Ram’s legacy.
A poster of Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad 'Ravan'.
New Delhi: Over the last month, 30-year-old lawyer Chandrashekhar Azad, leader of the Bhim Army, has become a polarising figure. For supporters, he is the true inheritor of Dalit leader Kanshi Ram’s legacy. For the police, however, he is the mastermind of the violence that gripped Saharanpur in the month of May. For nearly a month, following the violence on May 9, the lawyer-turned-activist had been on the run.
On Thursday morning, Chandrashekhar was arrested by a team of UP Police in Himachal Pradesh’s Dalhousie. The team, comprising of members of the UP Special Task Force (STF) and the Special Investigative Team (SIT) set up by Saharanpur police, coordinated with local police in Dalhousie to finally nab the elusive Bhim Army chief.
On May 21, while police was searching for him all over the state, Chandrashekhar emerged on the stage at a Jantar Mantar rally in New Delhi, thumping his chest in defiance. He offered to surrender to the court but ultimately, did not do so. The police was under considerable pressure to arrest him after he announced another Jantar Mantar rally on June 18.
Amit Pathak, SSP UP STF, told News 18, “We were contacted by Saharanpur police since they were unable to track him. Because Chandrashekhar was in different states, they needed our help with the arrest. We put together a team of six people from the STF in Meerut that helped Saharanpur police track Chandrashekhar and coordinate with the arrest. We had been tracking his movement for the last four-five days and learnt that he was going to move to Himachal Pradesh.” He added that people had seen him in the hill state, which helped the local police gain more ground to arrest him.
“He had been living in hotels and we were just a few steps behind him. We checked hotel entries and traced him to Dalhousie, where he had taken up accommodation in a local hotel,” said Pathak.
Aditya Mishra, UP ADG (Law and Order), said Chandrashekhar was finally arrested around 10:30 am on Thursday morning. Sources said that while the Dalit activist was adept at remaining elusive, he unwittingly left behind a trail of breadcrumbs for cops to follow. Apart from CCTV footage, witness accounts, audio recordings of phone conversations, police claim they extracted a lot of evidence from social media posts.
According to police sources, Chandrashekhar’s arrest proved difficult because the Bhim Army leader was constantly changing positions. “He had been in several states over the last month. He moved from Uttarakhand to Delhi to Punjab to Himachal Pradesh. He kept changing SIM cards whenever he moved positions, making it very difficult to track him,” a source said.
The source added that Chandrashekhar, after a month of being on the run, was quickly running out of money. “He was severely cash-strapped and relied on a network of support. His supporters raised money so that he could stay underground.”
His supporters, meanwhile, have asked the administration to follow protocol. Ravi Kumar Gautam, a leader of the Bhim Army’s youth wing, told News 18, “We request the administration to follow the rules and take him for medical examination and then to court. If the administration tries to skip any step, the central and state governments will be responsible for the consequences. They should withdraw the false cases. The Dalit community will not tolerate this.”
Speaking to News18, UP Home Secretary Mani Prasad Mishra said, "The SIT is working in detail on all the cases. A team is camping in Chutmalpur, Chandrashekhar's native town to make sure the situation is calm." Meanwhile, internet services have been suspended in Saharanpur district for the second time in a month.
The Bhim Army, in protest against alleged atrocities on Dalits, had called for a Mahapanchayat in Saharanpur on May 9. While the police denied permission for the public meeting, invitations had already gone out on social media. Hundreds had started making their way to the venue of the meeting when things turned sour. Supporters of the Bhim Army clashed with the police, following which; Chandrashekhar was booked by the police. Recently, UP Police had declared a reward of Rs 12,000 each for information leading to the capture of Chandrashekhar, the 30-year-old leader of the Bhim Army, along with two of his associates.
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