RAF deployed in Saharanpur after Azad’s arrest
Internet services were suspended as a precautionary measure and police were deployed at various points in Saharanpur after Uttar Pradesh Police picked up the 31-year-old activist from Himachal Pradesh
Apprehending large scale protests following the arrest of Chandrashekhar Azad (31), Dalit activist and founder of Bhim Army, Uttar Pradesh police on Thursday turned Saharanpur into a garrison. Azad, who had been absconding for over a month and who had offered to surrender if the police released 37 innocent Dalits held by them, was picked up by plainclothesmen from Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh and was driven away to an unknown destination.
Police patrolling in and around Saharanpur was intensified and the administration suspended Internet mobile services to prevent use of social media to mobilise people. The Rapid Action Force (RAF) was deployed in the villages of Shabbirpur, Chandpur and Shimlana villages which had witnessed Thakur-Dalit clashes on May 5 this year.
While the situation in Saharanpur remained calm but tense, a Dalit activist claimed that most Dalits were yet to return to Shabbirpur and Dalits who are there fear for their lives. Innocent people from both caste groups had been arrested by the police, he complained.
While the clashes were provoked by Thakurs objecting to an Ambedkar statue being installed inside the premises of a Dalit temple and the administration denying permission for the installation, police is doing everything to paint the Dalits as the villains inspired by Maoists.
The deceptive name of ‘Bhim Army’ has clearly come handy.
Before his arrest, Azad was last seen in Punjab and was quoted as saying, “I feel the UP government has failed to address the issues of the Dalits. The chief minister has lost control over the police and the administration. There have been more cases of atrocities against the Dalits in the past two-and-a-half months as compared to last one year.”
Police was under pressure to arrest Azad. His ability to dodge the police for over a month was taken as an embarrassment.
Lawyer by profession, 31-year-old “Azad” is named in one of the 40 FIRs lodged against Dalits after the clashes in Shabbirpur in which a Thakur lost his life. Leader of Aarakshan Bachao Sangharsh Samiti (ABSS) Randhir Singh told National Herald over the phone that at the time of the incident, Azad was indeed in Saharanpur but he was not present at the site.
“Azad had organised a protest in Saharanpur against atrocities and violence directed at Dalits and that seems to be his only fault,” he added.