Dalit star’s political pitch
If the arrest of UP’s young dalit militant leader Chandrashekhar Azad “Ravan” in June 2017, after a hunt through several states, had created a sensation of sorts, the freeing of the 30- year- old lawyer and Bhim Sena founder from prison in the early hours of Friday was also somewhat dramatic. The release at 2.30 am was reportedly attended by hundreds of young dalits from different parts of the country. It is likely to be politically impactful in the election season.
Azad rose to prominence in early 2017 after the dalits of Saharanpur in western UP resisted a campaign of physical assaults by an upper- caste group, which appeared to have the patronage of the ruling party. To publicise his cause he had addressed a gathering of some one lakh people in New Delhi.
After he was arrested from Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh, the Bhim Sena founder was granted bail, but the UP government booked him under the draconian National Security Act in early November of 2017 under which detention for a year is permitted without the framing of charges. This was seen as a one- sided act, especially among dalits, as the other side was not proceeded against.
A month short of a year, the state government has released the young militant, presumably on the assumption that he would queer the political pitch for BSP supremo Mayawati, with whom Azad is supposed to be at odds. But his public comments appear to dispel this notion. He has aggressively announced his intention to campaign for the defeat of the BJP — a party he says is anti- dalit — in the upcoming elections in several states and in the next Lok Sabha poll.
This is expected to put pressure on the BSP and the Congress to reach an elusive electoral understanding in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and UP.