Amid rumours of Bhim Army founder Chandrasekhar Azad “Ravan” surrendering to police, thousands of Dalits assembled at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on Sunday to protest rising caste atrocities in Uttar Pradesh
Here’s what happened at the rally:
Chandrasekhar Azad, the leader of Bhim Army, who has been on the run, appeared on the dais wearing his trademark blue scarf. He addressed the protesters and disappeared in the crowd. “He looks completely different. He shaved off his beard to evade arrest,” said a supporter of Bhim Army, present in the crowd. Web channel National Dastak played the video of Chandrashekhar Azad addressing the protesters.
“Ravan,” as he likes to be called, blasted the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS)-endorsed Manuvadi in his speech. He said, “If our demands are not met, millions of Dalits will convert to Buddhism. Seeing this, the RSS-backed Manuvadis will fall silent.”
During his speech, Azad “Ravan” announced that his brother, Ravi Gautam, would head the organisation in his absence. “Jai Bhagwan Jatav (Azad’s brother) would be the patron of the Committee,” he said. The announcement didn’t seem to have been liked by his supporters. One of them asked, “Why is he promoting his brother?”
Sloganeering against Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath, the Dalit leader also demanded action against Thakurs, along with compensation and a judicial probe. While most speakers at the event spoke on the caste violence in Saharanpur, several of them also asked the supporters to spread the Bhim Army-led movement to other parts of the country.
While the protest was called by Bhim Army, several Left-wing organisations also backed the move. Student outfits, including the All India Students Association (AISA), Other Backward Class (OBC) Forum and, the All India Students Federation (AISF) from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), participated in the protest. The face of the Dalit uprising in Una, Jignesh Mevani, besides the former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) president, Kanhaiya Kumar, also addressed the predominantly Dalit gathering.
Interestingly, Mevani and Kanhaiya did not receive expected warmth. Many die-hard Dalit activists expressed their discomfort with Mevani’s line of understanding of Dalit issues. His mixing up Dalit issues with capitalism and Brahamanvad was not liked by many.
As of now, the number of protestors at the rally cannot be confirmed (estimates vary from 10,000 to as many as 50,000).
Many Dalit protesters complained that mainstream media had underplayed the recent spate of violence in Saharanpur. Many present at the rally stated that they would be protesting against, what they called, the Brahamanvad media.
Wearing Azad “Ravan” masks, many young supporters could be heard shouting slogan against Manuvad.
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