“If we can vote them in, we can also vote them out,” says Bhim Army founder Chandrashekhar ‘Azad’. Speaking from Pune, where permission was previously denied by the police to hold any meeting, he sounds bitter.
He had been denied permission to hold meetings in Mumbai, where he was practically detained in his hotel and was not allowed to move out. He had reached Pune to take part in the annual celebratory gathering at Bhima-Koregaon, 20 kilometres from Pune, to commemorate the victory of Dalits (Mahars in a British Regiment) over Marathas in 1818.
Respite for the Bhim Army chief, however, came from the Bombay High Court.
The Bombay High Court on Monday allowed Azad and his supporters to move freely through Maharashtra and removed restrictions on them from appearing at public rallies.
A vacation bench of Justice CV Bhadang took into account Mumbai Police’s statement that the detention of Azad and 700 of his followers was an error and an aberration. The next date of hearing has been scheduled for January 4.
But, the Bhim Army founder remains furious at the BJP state government in Maharashtra.
“This country does not belong to anyone’s father. This country belongs as much to us as to the Prime Minister, or the Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. These people believe they are above the Constitution. Don’t I have rights as a citizen? Don’t I have the right to hold meetings peacefully,” rants an agitated Azad.
Chandrashekharhas spent over a year in prison after the Uttar Pradesh Police booked him in a case concerning violent clashes between Dalits and Rajputs last year in Saharanpur. The UP Government used the NSA to detain him without trial and when he was finally allowed bail, it was speculated that he had struck a deal with the BJP, which wanted to use the emerging Dalit leader to oppose BSP and Mayawati, and split the Dalit vote
But the Bhim Army chief has already declared his support for Mayawati and says vehemently, “Bhima-Koregaon symbolises our struggle; we take pride in it. Don’t we have the right to assemble there? Is it not a part of our country?”
Asserting that there is undeclared Emergency in the country, Azad says it’s time to teach the BJP a lesson.
“The Modi Government, he declares, is on its way out. There is widespread dissatisfaction in the country over the BJP government’s mismanagement. There is no Rule of the Law. In Uttar Pradesh itself, a Dalit girl has been burnt alive, in Bulandshahr and Ghazipur, policemen got killed by mobs. Yogi and Modi are no democrats. They have no faith in democracy and it is time to show them the door,” he fumes.
The Dalit-Muslim unity, he says, is the need of the hour. Muslims, he points out, have been under attack, although they have exercised remarkable restraint so far. “Their socio-economic conditions are already bad and they are now under attack for their food habits, trade and religion. The Muslims have never worked against the interests of the nation and yet they are being singled out and accused of being unpatriotic,” he adds.
“I will bring the Dalits and Muslims on a single platform, so that they can evolve into a formidable political force,” vows the budding leader.
(PS: This correspondent spoke to Azad before the Bombay High Court removed restrictions on his movement).