Thousands of members and supporters of the Bhim Army, an organisation championing the Dalit cause, gathered at Jantar Mantar on Sunday, demanding the release of their leader Chandrasekhar Azad.
Mr. Azad was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force (STF) and Special Investigative Team (SIT) from Himachal Pradesh’s Dalhousie on June 8. According to Bhim Army leaders, Mr. Azad has been falsely implicated in over 47 cases.
His mother Kamlesh Devi, who was mobilising groups of women, addressed an excited crowd sporting blue ‘Jai Bhim’ caps. Cries of ‘Jai Bhim’ rang across Jantar Mantar, with several smaller organisations like the Dalit Sangarsh Morcha, Yuva Shakti Dal and Krantikari Yuva Sangathan joining in from western U.P., Punjab, Rajasthan and Delhi.
“I’m proud of my son and all the others who don’t hesitate in laying down their lives for the cause of the Dalits. For ages, upper caste zamindars have trampled us under their feet. It’s time to rise,” said Ms. Devi, adding that her son had been targeted for speaking up about atrocities against Dalits in U.P.
She threatened to go on an indefinite hunger strike till her son and other Bhim Army leaders are released. “I don’t trust the Narendra Modi government or the Yogi Adityanath government. It is after Mr. Adityanath came to power that the violence against us intensified,” she added.
Among others present at the protest were BSP founder Kanshi Ram’s sister Swarn Kaur. “This is the rise of a new movement against atrocities the upper caste people. The youth have shown that they won’t stay silent; they will raise their voice against what is wrong,” she told the crowd.