Meet face behind Dalit anger and violence in Saharanpur: a 30-year-old local lawyer

According to Chandrashekhar, the Bheem Army is a “platform where we give direction to our young blood and make them aware”.

Written by Abhishek Angad | Saharanpur | Updated: May 11, 2017 7:59 am
Saharanpur, saharanpur clashes, Saharanpur violence, what happened in saharanpur, Saharanpur dalits, Bheem Army, India news, Indian Express Chandrashekhar, founder of Bheem Army: ‘Blood is same, why the bias?’ (Photo: Gajendra Yadav)

SIX YEARS ago, when he was with his ailing father at a hospital in Saharanpur, he heard about various incidents of “Dalits being oppressed in society”. That was when he decided to scrap his plan to pursue higher studies in the US and stay back to work for his community. Four years later, Chandrashekhar formed the ‘Bheem Army Bharat Ekta Mission’. Today, the 30-year-old lawyer is the face of the Dalit protests in Saharanpur with his Bheem Army claiming to have 40,000 members in seven states, including Uttar Pradesh.

On Wednesday, a day after fresh violence broke out in the area following last Friday’s clash between Dalits and Thakurs in Shabbirpur village, Chandrashekhar was busy meeting members of his community at his home in Chhutmalpur nearby. Speaking to The Indian Express, Chandrashekhar said, “Political parties need the votes of all communities but no one really cares for our community. Our people are oppressed every day and they have no voice. They can’t go to police because they don’t listen to us. Take, for example, the incident in Una (the assault on Dalits by gaurakshaks in Gujarat last year) or (Hyderabad student) Rohith Vemula’s suicide. This has been going on for long. We are an apolitical organisation, which focuses only on the uplift of our people.”

According to Chandrashekhar, the Bheem Army is a “platform where we give direction to our young blood and make them aware”.

“I believe that in today’s time, if we just help our community live with self pride, the whole issue gets sorted. Whenever there are any incidents of violence or harassment against Dalits, we will stand up for it,” he said. Asked about Tuesday’s violence, in which suspected members of Bheem Army set a bus on fire at Bheta Road and burnt 10 motorcycles and a private car on Malhipur Road, both in Saharanpur, Chandrashekhar said he “condemns” these incidents.

“The authorities had called me to pacify the protesters. We follow Ambedkar and we believe in the law of the land. But what will our people do when there is a difference in the treatment meted out to them?” he said. However, he claimed that not all those who gathered for the protest on Tuesday were members of Bheem Army.

On Wednesday, the UP government transferred two senior police officers — SP (Saharanpur City) Sanjay Singh and SP (Rural Area) Rafiq Ahmad — for failing to anticipate the fresh protests. Police said 22 Dalits have been arrested, so far. The protests followed the clash on Friday, in which one Thakur man was killed and 25 Dalit homes set ablaze after Dalits in Shabbirpur objected to loud music being played by Thakurs in a procession to attend a function in honour of Rajput ruler Maharana Pratap.

Chandrashekhar alleged that Thakurs were given permission to hold a ceremony and mobilised crowds wielding swords from seven-eight villages on Friday but Dalits were not allowed to hold “a peaceful protest” four days later. “In Shabbirpur, when Thakurs started a procession, there was no lathicharge on them. Why this treatment for us?” he said.

Recalling a similar incident in Gadkauli village, near Shabbirpur, Chandrashekhar said that “a major controversy” broke out last year when a board that read ‘The Great Chamar. Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar Gram, Gadkauli’ was installed at the entrance.

“Some young Dalit men came to me and said they wanted to install the board on their land. I did not find any problem. When we get certificates of ‘chamar’ from authorities, why should we have any problem in taking pride in that? Thakurs of the village raised an objection but the matter was sorted eventually,” he said. The Bheem Army, he said, also assists Dalits in education and legal matters. “Our organisation works with police, too. In the past, we have conducted various camps for blood donation as well as traffic awareness with police,” said Chandrashekhar.

“I tell everyone that the most important thing these days is to get educated to fight oppression. After we get their (upper caste) jobs, only then will there be some equality. We have the same blood so why differentiate?” he said.

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  1. S
    SKC
    May 21, 2017 at 5:46 pm
    Upper caste are ancient aryan fair invaders who ins uted caste sytem to rule lower caste aboriginal people. Hindu religion means castism which has imilated all prevai local custom to fool the people in the name of religion. Caste system is hidden recism of colour to segregate whites and black. All white fair people, please go back to cemtral asia/iran from where u have come.
    Reply
    1. P
      Proud Bhakt
      May 21, 2017 at 5:38 pm
      All these Dalits are SICKular , Anti-National maoists . They should be eliminated in fake encounters.
      Reply
      1. I
        India First
        May 21, 2017 at 4:36 pm
        Today it is Bheem Army, then Manoos Army, then naga army and list will go on.Thanks to BJP for creating such a situation in the country.Achey din for Modi,
        Reply
        1. B
          BHUPENDRA SINGH NARUKA
          May 17, 2017 at 10:10 pm
          It would be like I form of some small political form and then my group members betray and kill 100 Dalits and then burn ever single vehicle that is bearing Name bhim and then when media ask me on that incidence I would sly out with CONDEMNED word . How fair it would be even after knowing they are taking law in hand you media personal are publishing this kind of shame . And no one is there to know what happened to That THAKUR BOY who was killed in obsession and violence by Dalits on before day. PLZ GROW UP still have time.
          Reply
          1. R
            Rajiv Pande
            May 14, 2017 at 4:31 am
            Our anglicized education system does not address the needs of our society. It teaches modified history, does not teach about our complex social problems, avoids unpleasant topics and polishes over them, and does not instill correct values. The primary objective of an education system should be to produce good citizens, not just engineers and doctors.
            Reply
            1. P
              Prem Silhi
              May 14, 2017 at 5:44 am
              Excellent.
              Reply
            2. R
              Rajiv Pande
              May 14, 2017 at 3:34 am
              The media, including this one, is highly irresponsible. The glorification of violence is reprehensible ("the face of Dalit anger....." and the rest of the headline). The entire story is supportive of the violence.
              Reply
              1. P
                Prem Silhi
                May 14, 2017 at 1:10 am
                The only face behind the so-called Dalit anger is the 1885-born Indian National Congress’ hitherto ru ideology to keep people divided, distracted, and controlled. Chandersekhar is only the occasional human element of that ideological face that has since been accepted as some kind of a force in Indian politics. If the Dalit is prevalent today, seventy years after the so-called independence, anger, if any, should be directed against the erstwhile rulers and their contemporary media with a resolve to ins ute legal measures, devoid of violence, to find solutions. It is time that violence involving any Dalit issue should be treated as law and order situation and sternly dealt with accordingly.
                Reply
                1. L
                  Lovely
                  May 12, 2017 at 4:48 am
                  Fake Dalits and fake news. Upper caste people were also arrested.
                  Reply
                  1. R
                    Ram
                    May 12, 2017 at 2:02 am
                    After fai to prop-up Vemulas, some left fake dalit in Gujarat using Uno excuse the left-award wapsi gang and pseudo-seculars with media help are trying to set up this new fellow, after seeing massive dalit support to BJP (75 of 80 reserved seats are with BJP) . This is another attempt by failed rejected left-award wapsi gang forces to divide Hindus and resurrect another party like BSP to halt migration of dalits to BJP. It is curious suddenly media using Thakur-dalit conflict ..(media repeatedly called Yogi Adityanath as Thakur, when in reality a sanyasi has no caste). This experiment also will fail and Modi efforts to empower dalits and bring them in Hindu/Buddhist/Sikh mainstream will be big success. Mulla-missionary-marx forces conspiracy to create dalit-other division will again fail.
                    Reply
                    1. O
                      Onkar Singh
                      May 11, 2017 at 6:17 pm
                      The irony of situation in UP,how come Adityanath is heading the Nath Sampradaya?He is a kshatrya. Right now a script written by the RSS is being pla out in UP. Genocide of the Muslim community and the Dalits,under the guise of " riots"! Next deprive both the Muslims and the Dalits of their "ancestral professions", sel meat and skinning the animals. Think tank headed by Rakesh Sinha and others like Tarun Vijay are likely to be behind the boi of the cauldron in the state of UP in particular and the rest of the country in general. The dalits should be careful of the designs of these pseudo nationalists who are hell-bent on creating disruption on the basis of polarisation.
                      Reply
                      1. C
                        Citizen
                        May 11, 2017 at 5:43 pm
                        Lodging a compliant with police is only for few privileged cl in the nation forget about Dalits it applies to many. The force is only meant for VIPs,VVIPS including Dalits. So what is a big issue here. Try to modernize the law enforcement with high tech methods including registering a complaint on the web and with in a week it should be registered in person and an FIR obtained. These so called leaders are still working to keep division in the society instead of taking them forward by education,hard work, employment etc. It applies to all classes who are demanding reservations,micro reservations etc. Please do not use the people to get yourself rich but advice,guide and lead them in a right direction to live and let live society along with others with honor,dignity and pride. Jaihind
                        Reply
                        1. D
                          Dalit
                          May 11, 2017 at 5:00 pm
                          Mody is OBS traitor and a useful fool/tool in the hand of so called upper caste gangsters of rss.
                          Reply
                          1. S
                            syed ansar
                            May 11, 2017 at 4:45 pm
                            See the hypocricy of sangh parivar that they pompously claim that they don't believe in caste politics but distribute tickets based on castes......create polarisation .....use the lower castes for votes and making them ladder ensure supermacy of upper castes and then show the lower castes their place
                            Reply
                            1. D
                              Dalit
                              May 11, 2017 at 4:37 pm
                              The young man will be wiped out by the brahmanical forces unleashed on India by the anti nation senas of rss. Mody is just tool to put dalits and minorties or sensible hindus in place. Vahini cows and rrs monkeys are destined to rule in Cowstan.
                              Reply
                              1. K
                                KP
                                May 11, 2017 at 3:26 pm
                                KPs the highest order Brahmans do not believe in cast system and we r not facing any problem in society it must have a need of the hour then just for distribution of work and later it was used as tool to suppress weak Hindus wake up shun cast system or it will shun u altogether
                                Reply
                                1. A
                                  Against traitors
                                  May 11, 2017 at 1:26 pm
                                  Fake Express is silent about punctured nose Akilesh commenting that soldiers from Gujarat do not die in border for which martyrs' families from Gujarat have replied.
                                  Reply
                                  1. B
                                    Bharat
                                    May 11, 2017 at 1:20 pm
                                    There are rumors that Sanatan Dharmi suffer which is baseless as media and administration is controlled by them only. Who suffered all along is open fact see 1984 and 2002. Why cases were transferred from Gujrat to Maharastra because prosecution biased reporting. Dalits have been targeted for cow and having shown respectable marriages on horse etc. India survive since there are noble human in society and police. How long masses shall allow to poison the social fabric for religion based politics and creating hatred in the name of commandal /cow politics neutralizing Mandal/weak elements of society. Better to behave as an Indian only for better future of all in letter and spirit.
                                    Reply
                                    1. M
                                      Mohamed
                                      May 11, 2017 at 1:17 pm
                                      Folks, the issue is not who brought caste-ism to the subcontinent, whether it was foreign invader or locally born and bread does not really matter today but what matters the most is how can such a system still operate in a civilized society?, when slavery was abolished from the world; indentured labor is gone; universal human rights and equality are inscribed in laws and every country and society is expected to follow it. How can one justify the superiority of one human being to the other? It is about time, the Indian cons ution guarantees the equality of all Indians for opportunities, judicially and property rights. Moreover, rigorous punishments should be imposed on anyone that deviates to respect the scope and the spirit of the law of the land. No country can achieve its human potential without uplifting the social, economic and educational status of its population and India is wasting a large percentage of its manpower through discriminatory cultural and political practices.
                                      Reply
                                      1. J
                                        Jugal Kishore Sharma
                                        May 11, 2017 at 1:12 pm
                                        most of touts has caring only bias formation, acute political dreaming . Most of unorthodox dealt to Yogi era may be tries to charred ! less 45 days tenure has been proven the mass-rid mismanagement of rules would be put on right path. Where about the actual @ who is wrong or right but a parrelel shy for rule may be appear in our society
                                        Reply
                                        1. D
                                          Dalit
                                          May 11, 2017 at 4:46 pm
                                          Spend some time learning English. You might learn to put across you views, though that may be expecting little too much of an rss monkey/bandar.
                                          Reply
                                        2. A
                                          Ajay
                                          May 11, 2017 at 1:11 pm
                                          Koi baat nahi bachu.....Ab Modi ki or Yogi ji Ram Rajya layenge aur tum jaison ko sahi jagah tikayenge.thodi der ki hi baat hai.........
                                          Reply
                                          1. R
                                            Ram
                                            May 11, 2017 at 1:06 pm
                                            After fai to prop-up Vemulas, some left fake dalit in Gujarat using Uno excuse the left-award wapsi gang and pseudo-seculars with media help are trying to set up this new felow, after seeing massive dalit support to BJP (75 of 80 reserved seats are with BJP) . This si another attempt by failed rejected left-award wapsi gang forces to divide Hindus and resurrect another party like BSP to halt migration of dalits to BJP. It is curious suddenly media using Thakur-dalit conflict ..(media repeatedly called Yogi Adityanath as Thakur, when in reality a sanyasi has no caste). This experiment also will fail and Modi efforts to empower dalits and bring them in Hindu/Buddhist/Sikh mainstream will be big success. Mulla-missionary-marx forces conspiracy to create dalit-other division will again fail.
                                            Reply
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