New Delhi: Dalit activists and Bhim Army members are now planning a ‘Jail Bharo’ movement in Saharanpur, with the demand of immediate release of their jailed founder and leader Chandrashekhar Azad. Their argument: If the Karni Sena members can run riot by attacking school buses and threatening of violence, how is it legitimate to hold Azad — who was a peaceful protester — in jail for the past eight months.
Its 31-year-old founder and leader Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ may be in jail for allegedly inciting caste violence in Western Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur district, but the Bhim Army is in no mood to stop its protest.
Over the past eight months, Chandrashekhar has been languishing in jail and apart from occasional statements, including an open letter expressing his anguish at the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh, Chandrashekhar has largely remained absent from the spotlight ever since the Saharanpur Dalit-Rajput clashes of May 2017.
Lashing out at the BJP for its alleged bias against Dalit activists, Bhim Army spokesperson Ravi Kumar Gautam said, “Men from the Karni Sena are offended by a movie. They openly threatened of violence in the country. They even waved their flags while attacking a school bus with children inside. Far from acting against the Karni Sena, BJP leaders supported them wholeheartedly. On the other hand, Chandrashekhar, who has always advocated peaceful protests, is being kept in jail as if he was a terrorist.
“Karni Sena created ruckus in five BJP ruled states. If they can arrest our leader, why can’t they act against Karni Sena?”
The Dalit leader who was booked under the National Security Act (NSA), was supposed to be released on February 3. Gautam said, “Last week, the Yogi government in Uttar Pradesh demonstrated its ‘Manuwadi’ nature by extending the NSA against our leader.”
“To protest against this, the Saharanpur unit of the Bhim Amy is planning a Jail Bharo Andolan against the district administration and state government. Volunteers from Saharanpur will court arrest in a peaceful manner to put pressure on the administration,” he added.
The Bhim Army leader threatened that his organisation would further spread the agitation across the state if the movement in Saharanpur does not bring any results.
“If the administration still does not listen, the Saharanpur-centric movement will spread across the entire state. There is not enough space in the jails of the Yogi government to handle a Jail Bharo movement by the Bhim Army.”
Meanwhile, Shabbirpur village, which was the flashpoint of the Saharanpur riots, saw a peaceful passage of the Ravidas Jayanti procession on Tuesday.
The Bhim Army, in its protest against alleged atrocities on Dalits, had called for a Mahapanchayat in Saharanpur on May 9, 2017.
While the police denied permission for the public meeting, invitations had already gone out on social media. Hundreds 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.
Nearly a month after the violence on May 9, the lawyer-turned-activist was on the run fearing arrest.
Chandrashekhar was later arrested by a team of UP Police in Himachal Pradesh’s Dalhousie in June. The team, comprising members of the UP Special Task Force (STF) and the Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by Saharanpur police coordinated with local police in Dalhousie to finally nab the elusive Bhim Army chief.