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Bhim Army supporters hold a protest over the arrest of their leader Chandrashekhar Azad and other leaders at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Sunday. Photo: Kamal Singh/PTI
Bhim Army supporters hold a protest over the arrest of their leader Chandrashekhar Azad and other leaders at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Sunday. Photo: Kamal Singh/PTI

Bhim Army hits Delhi streets, demands release of its leader Chandrashekhar Azad

The gathering, which largely comprised Dalit youths, protested caste violence in Uttar Pradesh, besides demanding the release of Bhim Army's chief Chandrashekhar Azad

New Delhi: Mobilised by the Bhim Army, a large number of Dalit youths on Sunday hit the streets of Delhi, for the second time in less than a month, protesting caste violence in Uttar Pradesh and demanding the release of Chandrashekhar Azad, the outfit’s chief.

The spirited gathering, of around 2,500 as estimated by the police, saw the presence of Chandrashekhar’s mother Kamlesh Devi and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) founder Kanshi Ram’s sister Swarn Kaur among others.

The stretch between the Parliament Street police station and the New Delhi Municipal Council convention centre turned into a sea of blue, the colour of Dalit resistance, and pulsated with the cries of ‘Jai Bheem’ as protesters from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab trooped in, from around 10am.

Chandrashekhar Azad was arrested on 8 June by the Uttar Pradesh task force from Himachal Pradesh’s Dalhousie in connection with his alleged role in the Thakur- Dalit clash in Saharanpur.

“I will protest, sit on dharna and also stage indefinite fast till my son is not released. We will fight. I have no expectation from the Narendra Modi government or the Uttar Pradesh government, especially since the violence has been triggered by the very rise of Yogi Adityanath," Kamlesh Devi told PTI.

Like the previous gathering on 21 May, which had seen a bigger turnout, speaker after speaker laid emphasis on keeping the “social movement" away from politics and mainstream political parties professing the Dalit cause like the BSP.

“(BSP supremo) Mayawati built her entire career on my brother’s work. This is a new movement spearheaded by the youth. Whenever there’s injustice, the youth will rise," Kaur said. However, sharp divisions within the ranks of the emerging outfit came to the fore during the demonstration, with the organisers pushing down a member from the dais, accusing him of attempting to “hijack" the movement, triggering chaos and confusion.

The organisers also raised funds for the victims of the clash during the demonstration and people were given slots to speak based on the amount donated by them. “It is apparent that Bhim Army lacks discipline. But it comprises largely of youths and they will learn with time," Ummed Singh Gautam, the chief patron of the Samta Sainik Dal, founded by B.R. Ambedkar in 1926, said.

Chandrashekhar, a lawyer by profession, was arrested on 8 June by the Uttar Pradesh task force from Himachal Pradesh’s Dalhousie in connection with his alleged role in the Thakur- Dalit clash in Saharanpur. His brothers, Bhagat Singh and Kamal Kishor were also present at the rally.

Two members of the Bhim Army were arrested in Saharanpur for their alleged involvement in the Ramnagar caste violence on 9 May after a person was killed and several others were injured in a clash between Dalits and Thakurs at Shabbirpur village on 5 May.

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