The Bhim Army, which shot into limelight after the caste violence in Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh (UP) a couple of months back, is now spreading its base in Maharashtra, with Pune being considered as “an important centre”.
On Sunday, the Maharashtra unit of Bhim Army, led by Ashok Kamble, held a meeting in Pune in which 60 representatives from 24 districts in the state participated to discuss their agenda and future course of action. The meeting was held at the office of Bhim Army’s core committee member Suryakant Surve in Dehu Road.
Advocate Ratnakar Daware, who heads the Bhim Army in Mumbai and who was present at the meeting in Pune, said, “We are mainly focusing on ten issues — protection of our women, fighting against the caste atrocities faced by Dalit officers and staffers in government services, injustice done to Dalits in police stations, harassment of Dalits and minorities in rural areas, supporting the Dalit youths preparing for competitive exams conducted by UPSC, MPSC, raising voice for reservation in private sector, struggle for filling job vacancies in government sector, encouraging Dalit youths to become entrepreneurs, fight for solving problems of students from backward classes. Also, we would soon start a campaign – Release Chandra Shekhar Azad.”
The special task force of UP police had arrested Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar last month in the Saharanpur caste violence case. One person was killed and several suffered injuries after a clash took place between Dalits and Thakurs at Shabbirpur village in Saharanpur on May 5.Later, more incidents of violence were reported in the state.
Bhim Army’s state unit was formed on June 18 at the historic Chaitya Bhoomi in Mumbai. To spread the movement, activists of Bhim Army are holding meetings with people at district and taluka level across the state. “We do follow the Bhim Army in UP. But we are aware that social and political conditions and problems in Maharashtra are of different nature than in UP. So, our agenda is based on the situation in Maharashtra. We follow constitutional ways. We are meeting people from different sections. The response is overwhelming. In a recent programme in Mumbai, noted Dalit artist Sambhaji Bhagat and his team extended full support to us,” said Daware.
Earlier, a meeting of Bhim Army activists in Pune was held on June 11. The group is also becoming active on social media. Bhim Army activist Prashant Shere from Hinjewadi said they are committed to fighting the casteist and corrupt forces harassing the Dalits and minorities.