Bhim Army founder Chandrashekhar Azad was released from Saharanpur jail at 2.40am on Friday after being lodged there since June last year. Chandrashekhar was booked under the National Security Act following a caste clash that left one dead and many injured in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, last year and was arrested from Dalhousie.
Chandrashekhar Azad alias Ravan was born in Dhadkuli village near Chatmalpur in Saharanpur. He is a law graduate.
In 2014, he, along with Vinay Ratan Singh, co-founded the Bhim Army or the Bhim Army Bharat Ekta Mission, an unregistered organisation, to fight for the development of Dalits and other marginalised sections. In 2015, Chandrashekhar put up a board, reading ‘The Great Chamars of Dhadkauli Welcome You’, at his native place. This marked his first stint with controversy and he was catapulted to spotlight.
About his organisation
The Bhim Army Ekta Mission claims to have over 40,000 members across seven states. Set up just around four years ago, the outfit is now a popular name among the members of lower castes in Uttar Pradesh. According to Saharanpur residents, the group actively takes up campaigns to empower the marginalised class. It also runs around 300 schools to improve the standards of education among them.
Any Dalit between the ages of 18 and 25 is welcome to join the unit. Most of the members in the unit now belong to the Chamar community or its sub-caste Jatav. It is also open to Muslims.
The Bhim Army has apparently rankled former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati, the chief of Bahujan Samaj Party, who, over the last one year, has been taking digs at Chandrashekhar’s Army, suggesting that BJP is using the unit to break BSP’s bond with all the castes in UP.
May 2017 upheaval
In early May 2017, Saharanpur boiled over with caste clashes between the two communities. Dalits had objected to loud music being played by the upper caste Thakurs during a procession to honour Rajput ruler Maharana Pratap. This led to protests and riots. One of the Thakurs lost his life while 24 Dalit homes were set on fire.
Chandrashekhar was named as an accused in a total of 24 FIRs by the state police for his alleged role in fanning the protest by members of the Dalit community in the district.
In late May 2017, the Bhim Army took out a massive protest rally through Lutyen’s Delhi, its supporters waving placards with BR Ambedkar’s photograph as well as blue flags, chanting “Jai Bhim” slogans and wearing masks of Azad’s face. He later ended up appearing on stage to speak to supporters, saying that he is going to surrender. According to the Delhi Police, almost 10,000 people had gathered at Jantar Mantar.
Evading arrest for more than a month, Chandrashekhar even gave interviews to the media from various hideouts, till he was finally arrested by UP Police from Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh in early June 2017. He had a reward of Rs 12,000 on his head.