After two harrowing days in Mumbai, where he was put under detention by the Mumbai Police and briefly even arrested from Chaityabhoomi, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad has finally travelled to Pune in Maharasthra.
He is on his way to Bhima Koregaon, where attacks on Dalits by right wing goons on January 1st last year had led to cascading events that included a country wide bandh, repression by state forces(https://www.sabrangindia.in/article/fear-stalks-kalyan-east-attempt-murder-cases-filed-%E2%80%98innocent%E2%80%99-dalits) and eventually a ruse to arrest human rights activists(https://cjp.org.in/state-crushing-dissent-again/). Interestingly, he annual pilgrimage to the Jaystambh, erected by the British to honour the fallen soldiers of the battle of Bhima Koregaon was started by Babasaheb Ambedkar himself. Two hundred years ago, a small contingent of British forces that included a Mahar regiment (as well as Marathas, Muslims and Jews) had held back an advancing army of Peshwas at the Koregaon-Bhima village, despite being heavily outnumbered. It is therefore symbolic and significant that young Dalit leader, Chandrashekhar Azad has chosen to make the pilgrimage to the Jaystambh in 2019. It is perhaps also significant that the Maharasthra government led by Devendra Fadnavis is going out of its way to ensure that he doesn't. Even in Pune, permission for his rally was denied and a planned interaction with students and youth at the Savitribai Phule Pune University, cancelled. As they had done in Mumbai earlier, the police denied any involvement in the cancellations. Speaking to reporters, Azad said that the state of Maharasthra was under a 'dictatorship'. When asked what he would do if permission was not granted for his travel to Bhima Koregaon, Azad said ' why do i need permission ? Am I a terrorist ? I am free citizen of this country . Am I slave ? The Bahujan Samaj is nobody's slave'. He also claimed that the 'Brahmanwadi' forces in Maharasthra are driving a wedge between Dalits and Marathas. Mentioning the mysterious death of Pooja Sakat (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/koregaon-bhima-witness-found-dead/articleshow/63874066.cms) who had witnessed last year's violence, Azad said the real culprits, Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide are roaming free while witnesses are being killed'. On being asked if he will go ahead with programs at other places in Maharasthra, Azad said that they have obtained permissions for the Latur event and will be going there. It would be interesting to see if the unusual spate of cancellations of his public events and the state's denial of involvement will continue or is it really true that, as Azad says, 'to be Ambedkar's follower in this country is now considered a crime' .