Pooja Chaudhuri Chaudhuri
The only fiction I enjoy is in books and movies.
Last year, in the months of April and May, Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur witnessed violent clashes when BJP MP Raghav Lakhanpal took out a “Shobha Yatra” on April 14 without police permission on Ambedkar Jayanti. Raghav was accompanied by the Hindu Yuva Vahini, an organisation founded by Yogi Adityanath.
The obtrusive BJP MP carried out the procession from the communally sensitive and Muslim-dominated Sadak Dudhli. The 126th birth anniversary of Ambedkar was reduced to a catalyst for communal riots.
Sadak Dudhli has a mixed population of Muslims and Dalits. According to Radheshyam, the district president of Rashtriya Dalit Mahasabha, Dalit organizations managed to convince locals not to retaliate against “their Muslim brothers”, reported News18. But things got out of control when on May 5, a Dalit group opposed a loud procession by Thakurs to mark the birth anniversary of Rajput king Maharana Pratap. Only recently, Dalits were disallowed from installing a statue of their leader Ambedkar.
The offended Thakurs torched Dalit homes. Conflicts between the two groups led to the deaths of a Dalit and a Rajput. By mid-May, Dalit protest had reached Jantar Mantar, Delhi, led by Saharanpur native and founder of Bhim Army Chandrashekhar Azad.
“I am a threat to BJP, not the nation.” – Azad
Dalit leader Chandrashekhar Azad is recognised by most by the blue scarf around his neck. The scarf stands out, but not more than the man adorning it. The garb is more than a piece of cloth; it’s blue represents the colour of Dalit rebellion evoked by the architect of the Indian Constitution.
Since Azad came out in support of Dalits, he was wanted by the UP police for ‘inciting violence’. On June 8, he was arrested post the filing of 23 cases against him. Five months later, the Allahabad High Court granted Azad bail in all the charges. Hours after the court’s verdict, the UP government slapped the draconian National Security Act (NSA) on the Dalit leader, overturning the bail.
On January 23, 2018, the government extended the NSA imposed on Azad, thereby prolonging his jail time.
“The government has communicated no reason for the extension of Azad’s detention. They just said we have proper grounds to impose NSA,” said Pradeep Narwal, Convenor of Bhim Army Defence Committee, to The Logical Indian.
Azad was visited by Narwal in jail when he questioned, “what is the point of the bail granted by the court if I’m still behind bars?”
“I fear threats to my life,” he confided in Narwal. “But I am not bothered. I will keep fighting for my community and won’t get afraid of this government.” He further said that whatever is happening is highly unconstitutional on part of the state.
Narwal pointed out how the entire process of Azad’s detention raises eyebrows. “The government could have taken out an arrest warrant in his name but they imposed the draconian NSA without communicating the reason for extending his jail time.”
“If Baba Saheb Ambedkar would’ve been alive today, BJP would’ve imposed NSA on him as well,” he disappointingly added.
The Bhim Army filed a petition in the Allahabad High Court yesterday and have called for a dharna on February 18 against Azad’s detention. There is also an ongoing petition, urging for the release of the Dalit leader.
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