After 15 Months of Incarceration, UP Govt Orders Release of Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad from Jail
The Uttar Pradesh govt has, suddenly, on Thursday, September 13, ordered the release of Bhim Army chief from jail. Azad obtained bail in 27 criminal cases heaped on him, after which the draconian NSA was imposed on him, first in November 2017. The most significant was the re-promulgation of the order on Republic Day this year, reported exclusively by Sabrangindia. At 2 a.m. last night Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan returned to his village. “There are thousands thronging to meet him today and it is a day of victory,” Vinay Ratanji of Bhim Army told SabrangIndia.
Photo Courtesy: Photos taken on September 14 at Chutmalpur, Uttar Pradesh, Chandrshekhar Azad ravan’s Village
The state government on Thursday ordered the immediate release of Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar, alias Ravan, who was arrested, on false charges, for the clashes between Dalits and the police in Saharanpur on May 9, 2017, principal secretary (Home) Arvind Kumar said. In fact, it was the Bhim Army that did not led the Sahranpur violence deteriorate into Dalit-minority clashes. The state had booked Azad under the National Security Act (NSA) on November 2, 2017, a day after he was granted bail by the Allahabad high court. The NSA would have lapsed on November 1, 2018.
Photo Courtesy: Abrar Ahmed
A statement released by the government said that the decision was taken based on a plea filed by Azad’s mother, Kamlesh Devi. Along with Azad, two others, Shivkumar and Sonu, who had been booked under the NSA for their alleged role in the violence that took place in Shabbirpur, a village in Saharanpur district, in May 2017, will also be released prior to the NSA lapsing.
Ostensibly, the government moves comes from its claims that this was a response to Azad’s mercy petition. Kumar said the decision to release Chandrashekhar was taken after his mother filed a mercy application to the state government. He added that the situation in Saharanpur and other circumstances were also analysed before the decision. However, a robust battle in the Allahabad High Court and a petition in the Supreme Court had also been filed by the Bhim Army chief. Clearly ahead of next year’s polls, the Adityanath government does not wish to let Dalit anger work against it.
Chandrashekhar, the founder of Bhim Army — a group of Dalit youth — has been a leader with mass appeal thretening the established political leadership. In his village and neighbourhood in Saharanpur (especially Shabbirpur) where many consider him to be a crusader for social justice. His and his group’s growing influence in the region was seen to have been a part of a stronger Dalit voice that has risen in the last couple of years. His electrifying speech, where he stated that “India is Threatened by Brahmanism Not Muslims” (May 2017) had clearly threatened the estbalishment.
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Chandrashekhar was falsely accused of sparking the May 9 clashes during a protest against the police cane charge on people protesting “caste violence” in Saharanpur’s Shabbirpur village on May 5.
Police had invoked the National Security Act (NSA) against Chandrashekhar, a lawyer by profession, after his arrest. He has been in jail since his arrest by UP Special Task Force from Himachal Pradesh on June 8, 2017. NSA was also slapped on five other members of the Bhim Army, of whom Sonpal, Sudhir and Vilas were released on September 6 and 7, Kumar said. Two others, Sonu and Shiv Kumar, will be released with Chandrashekhar, he added.
The NSA allows the state government to detain any person it feels poses a ‘threat to the security of India’ or could ‘disrupt public order’. Its application is to be renewed every three months if the government is of the opinion that the person continues to be a threat. The application of NSA on Azad was last renewed in July and would have lapsed again in November.
Now, according to police sources in Saharanpur, they are waiting for the order to reach them and will release the three accused as soon as it does. Members of the Bhim army and Azad’s family have gathered outside the Saharanpur jail.
This is a victory for us and the confidence that people had in Chandrashekhar Azad. I also appeal to people to celebrate this occasion but abide by the constitutional values that we stand by,” said Kamal Walia, district president, Bhim Army, Saharanpur.
Kumar said the order has been sent to Saharanpur district administration and their release was likely by Friday. While Chandrashekhar’s judicial custody was till November 1, 2018, that of Sonu and Shiv Kumar was till October 14, 2018.
Violence had broken out in Saharanpur last year after tensions had began in April over the installation of a Ambedkar statue in Shabbirpur. The Dalits wanted the statue to be installed in the Ravidas temple in the village and the dominant Thakur community objected. The police urged the Dalit community to not install the statue in the ‘interest of peace’. On May 5, 2017, the Thakur community took out a procession commemorating Maharana Pratap. The Dalit community objected because the “DJ was too loud”. This led to violence as a mob armed with swords, thick bamboo sticks, country-made revolvers and bottles filled with petrol ransacked the Dalit ghetto of the village, burning down 55 homes. Several Dalits were grievously injured. One member of the Thakur community died. Five Dalits were booked for murder.
A few days after the violence, the Bhim Army – a fast growing Dalit social organisation at the time led by Azad – called for a mahapanchayat in Saharanpur town to protest against the violence in Shabbirpur. The police denied them permission and the protest turned violent as vehicles were set ablaze, stones were pelted and a police post was damaged.