Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Raavan’, the fiery Dalit activist from Uttar Pradesh who shot to fame when he was arrested under National Security Act in 2017, is set to expand base to Karnataka. The organisation he heads, Bhim Army, has already formed committees in most districts of the State. It is planning a mega rally in Bidar soon. The organisation already has a presence in 22 States.
Though Karnataka has had a long history of the Dalit movement, it has rarely had a radical one on the lines of the Bhim Army. However, Mr. Azad seems keen on changing this. “I have come here to sow the seeds of a radical Dalit struggle. In the next six months, you will hear the loud voice of Dalits on the streets of this State. It is our right that we are asking for and like Ambedkar told us, we won’t get anything without a struggle,” he told The Hindu.
Mr. Azad made an unscheduled visit to Devanahalli on the outskirts of the city on Wednesday to participate in a protest against an alleged Dalit atrocity case and police inaction.
“I have heard that police action in cases of atrocities in the State has been found wanting. Legally, we can seek to prosecute officers who are partisan in atrocity cases. We will soon take up such cases and file complaints against such officers,” he said.
One of the first organisational moves of the Bhim Army would be to start ‘Bhim Schools’ across the State – evening classes, holiday schools – that cater to Bahujan sections of society that are out of schooling, or even supplement formal schooling.
“Bhim Army runs 1,700 such schools in Uttar Pradesh today. These schools teach English and also impart political education to inculcate a Dalit consciousness among students,” he said.
On the issue of medium of instruction, he said there was now a divide between poor students forced to learn in the local language, while the rich learned English. “English is the road to liberation and English needs to be taught mandatorily in all government schools. Teaching English is one of the main features of Bhim Schools,” he said.
The organisation, Mr. Azad said, is a dilemma over whether it should remain a social movement or turn to electoral politics. Mr. Azad announced his candidature against Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Varanasi in 2019, but later withdrew. “We are not averse to electoral politics. We will take a call on the issue at a later stage based on what is good for the movement,” he said.