The continued incarceration of firebrand Dalit leader and Bhim Army chief, Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan by the Adityanath-led UP government has been widely condemned. The draconian National Security Act (NSA) was slapped on him after the Allahabad Court granted him bail two days ago. The Socialist Party headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar has demanded the immediate release of Chandrashekhar Azad 'Ravan.'
The Times of India had reported that less than a day after the Allahabad High Court granted bail to Chandrashekhar Azad, founder and chief of Dalit organisation Bhim Army, the Saharanpur district administration invoked the stringent National Security Act (NSA) against the leader, under which he will be arrested again after spending almost five months in jail."There are still cases pending against Azad in lower courts in Saharanpur. He faces trial for serious offences in three cases. The process of invoking NSA against him was started soon after his bail plea was submitted in the Allahabad High Court," said Saharanpur district magistrate (DM) PK Pandey.
Azad had earlier been arrested on charges of 'stoking caste violence' in Saharanpur in May. The high court on Thursday had granted him bail in all four cases against him and his associate Kamal Walia. Hearing Azad's bail application, Justice Mukhtar Ahmed had directed that he be released on bail because neither was any specific role assigned to the Bhim Armychief in the FIR nor was it alleged that he possessed any weapon at the time of the violence. Further, the FIR was lodged after a delay of three days.
Protesting against the new NSA charges, the Bhim Army is now planning an agitation to register protest against the move of the government, which will keep Chandrasekhar incarcerated for a while longer.
This move of the UP government has been widely condemned. As has been well documented until now, in May this year, in the caste violence against Dalits allegedly by dominant upper caste, Thakurs, in Shabbirpur village in Saharanpur District, many houses of Dalits were gutted down, women and men attacked forcing Dalits to flee the village out of fear. According to recent reports, the village still bears a deserted look.
At the bottom of this conflict reportedly is not just the historic intolerance of the dominant upper caste, Thakurs, generally but the sense of aggressive entitelement that has come in after the new saffron-hued dispensation assyumed power this year. Photographs of the Bhim Sena chief on wheel chair, have been doing rounds of social media, and are seen as testimony to the alleged violence meted out to him jail. he is also reportedly suffering from typhoid.
Since the May anti-Dalit violence, huge protest rallies in Saharanpur and New Delhi by Bhim Sena supported by other democratic and progressive forces and arrest of Chandra Shekhar, a lawyer by profession have also taken place. Meanwhile the Socialist Party headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar has demanded the immediate release of Chandrashekhar Azad 'Ravan.' In a statement released today, the party says that, " The Socialist Party demands immediate release of Chandrashekhar Azad 'Ravan', Bhim Army chief, from prison and removal of National Security Act (NSA) imposed on him. Chandrasekhar is lodged in Saharanpur jail from 9 June 2017. He is an accused in the four cases of inciting violence and property damage in the incident of Saharanpur Dehat Kotwali on 9 May 2017. The Allahabad High Court ordered his release on bail on 2 November2017 in all the four cases. But on the next day of the bail orders of Allahabad High Court, the Uttar Pradesh Government imposed NSA on him."
The party press release further states that, "While ordering Chandrasekhar to be released on bail, the High Court has admitted that the cases filed against him are politically motivated. But the Uttar Pradesh government has imposed NSA on Chandrasekhar ignoring the remarks of the court. According to this draconian law, he cannot come out of jail for a year. The government has decided to slap NSA on Chandrashekhar to keep him in detention. This shows that the present Uttar Pradesh government has no faith in the justice system and citizen rights. The Socialist Party believes that the decision to impose the NSA on Chandrasekhar is entirely motivated by political reasons. Since Chandrashekhar has been granted bail by the High Court, he should be released from the jail immediately and the NSA, imposed on him, should be removed.
The statement carries a stringent criticism of the NSA: " The National Security Act, enacted in 1980, is a direct violation of the civil rights granted by the Constitution. Governments have repeatedly abused this law. This law has also been misused in the case of Chandrasekhar. The Socialist Party urged the central government to repeal the NSA.
Committee for the Defense of Bhim Army Chief
Even as the state government’s repression on Bhim Army continues, most of its leaders still in jail and some forced to leave Saharanpur, a committee has been formed for the defense of Bhim Army. A group of activists and committed lawyers have been following up the legal struggle practically at their own expense – which at the moment involves getting the arrested activists, including the founder-President Chandrashekhar out of bail as the topmost priority. Some of the activists have started getting bail many still remain, including just ordinary people simply picked up by the people and framed by the police as Bhim Army activists.
On May 21, the Bhim Army organised a spectacular demonstration at Jantar Mantar. Defying attempts by the Uttar Pradesh State administration to hound the organisation, Bhim Army leader, Chandrashekhar, took the battle to the capital. Protesting against the recent caste disturbances in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur, hundreds led by the Bhim Army, an organisation fighting for Dalit rights, gathered at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. Members of several Dalit groups gathered at the protest site on Sunday, despite being denied permission by the Delhi Police. More than 50,000 persons had gathered at the protest. Bhim Army founder Chandrashekhar, has been contesting allegedly fabricated charges of the Uttar Pradesh Police for allegedly trying to instigate people. Apart from Azad, Gujarat youth Dalit leader Jignesh Mawani and former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar were among those who joined the protesters, it is reported.
On May 13, Justice Sawant, Justice Suresh, Justice BG Kolse Patil and others had in a press statement cautioned against the sue of draconian laws like the National security Act (NSA) on members of the Bhim Army including Chandrashekar. On May 5, violence broke out in Saharanpur’s Shabbirpur village after members of the Dalit community objected to loud music during a Thakur-led procession to mark the upcoming birth anniversary of Maharana Pratap. The Dalits claimed that the Thakurs did not get permission from the authorities to hold the event. In the clashes that followed, a Thakur man was killed. Later, around 2000 members from the Thakur community gheraoed the village and burned and ransacked 25 houses belonging to the Dalits. At least 15 people were injured in the violence.
On the back of the major demonstration at Jantar Mantar, on June 6, the Indian Express reports that the UPpolice have obtained an order to get 5 of Bheem Army’s Facebook pages deleted but there is no news on any attempts to block the accounts or pages of those individuals or organisations who incited violence against Dalits in Sagranpur. The Saharanpur police procured a court order to get five of Bheem Army's Facebook accounts deleted. The police had moved court to procure the order and also get details of the persons who posted “objectionable” comments, audio and video, and the account administrators. The court has reportedly delivered the order a week before.
1.NSA Against Chandrashekhar Unwarranted: Justice Sawant & Others