What is the difference between the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Bhim Army?
For Bimal Sagar, a 28-year-old from the Jatav community, the answer is simple: “BSP and Bhim Army are like the BJP and RSS. Bhim Army is a social force, helping us assert ourselves.”
On Friday, Bhind, the epicentre of Madhya Pradesh’s caste unrest, witnessed a remarkable mobilisation of Dalits behind the community’s emerging firebrand leader, Chandrashekhar Azad.
At the gathering, largely made up of youngsters and women, myriad demands and grievances, ranging from assault on dignity, unemployment and even the absence of LPG connections, coalesced under a scorching sun.
One name was missing from the event, jointly organised by the Bhim Army and Bahujan Youth Student Front (BYSF) — Mayawati.
However, for the youth at the rally, several sporting moustaches, black sunglasses and blue scarfs like Azad, these differences took a back seat as they wildly cheered for their hero and scrambled to click selfies with him.
“This is not a political event. This is a social event. When it comes to elections, we have always backed Behenji. She doesn’t win because other communities don’t vote for her,” said Vinay Lohiya (18), a photographer.
Sunil Kaushal (18), who is pursuing a shorthand course along with his BA, chimed in: “All these differences are nothing but creation of the Manuwadi media.”
At the rally, Azad, frequently holding aloft a copy of the Constitution, said the “Bahujan mission” will never be “weakened because of me”, and urged people to ensure that BJP candidates are defeated in the Lok Sabha polls.
Referring to his speech, Meera, a housewife, said, “Inki baat nahi sunenge toh pehle jaise ghulami karni padegi thakuron aur panditon ki (If we don’t pay heed to him, we will have to serve the Thakurs and Pandits like before.”
When Sheila lets out that she had voted for the BJP in 2014, hoping that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will ensure employment, the other women accompanying her chide her for “making a wrong choice”.
Neither Meera and Sheila — both from Mustera village in the district — had seen Azad before.
During the April 2, 2018 violence, one of the victims, Pradeep Jatav, was from the same village. On Friday, Jatav’s family, along with the family members of three more victims of the violence, were on the dais of the event named ‘Samvidhan Bachao Mahasammelan’, where one slogan stood out — “Dekho dekho kaun aya, Modi tera baap aya (Look who is here, Modi your father is here)”.
Khemraj Bodh, a senior member of the BYSF, urged the crowd to quit alcohol and other addictions “which have become of a vice of Dalit society”, and save that money to buy “licensed arms” instead.
“We need to have arms… Every family has to have at least two arms,” said Bodh.
As the rally ended, Sandeep Uchadiya (18) walked towards one of the many hawkers present at the venue.
Asked who he admires more, Jawaharlal Nehru or B R Ambedkar, Uchadiya, who wants to join the Navy, said, “I am an SC (Scheduled Caste), Ambedkar gave us the Constitution. He is bigger for me.”
Before leaving, he bought a Hindi copy of the Constitution.