Monday, 30th October 2017

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Dalit leader on fast in jail

Ambedkarite activist Chandrashekhar "Ravan" Azad has begun a staggered hunger strike at Saharanpur district jail demanding amnesty for all those facing cases for participating in Monday's Bharat Bandh.

By Pheroze L. Vincent
  • Published 8.04.18
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Chandrashekhar "Ravan" Azad. File picture
 

New Delhi: Ambedkarite activist Chandrashekhar "Ravan" Azad has begun a staggered hunger strike at Saharanpur district jail demanding amnesty for all those facing cases for participating in Monday's Bharat Bandh.

Azad's Bhim Army Bharat Ekta Mission became prominent after its militant protests last year against a series of attacks on Dalits, allegedly by Rajputs, at Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh.

In jail since June, booked under the National Security Act, Azad is suffering from dental and stomach ailments.

At least 11 people were killed in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh during the general strike by Dalit organisations and Opposition groups against the Supreme Court's "dilution" of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Several Dalits have been named in the cases filed after the strike, which witnessed firing on the protesters by police and people opposed to the shutdown.

Bhim Army defence committee convener Sanjeev Mathur said that Azad had begun skipping one meal from Saturday and would gradually give up both food and water if the outfit's demands were not met. These include the withdrawal of the FIRs against all the Dalit protesters across India and compensation for the dead.

"We are constantly being harassed and Dalit activists are being detained and assaulted across north India by the police as well as private citizens. Teachers in the Bhim Army's schools are being forced to give bonds of good conduct under Section 107 of the Criminal Procedure Code," Bhim Army president Vinay Ratan Singh said at a meeting at the Press Club on Saturday.

"We demand a judicial probe into the attacks on the peaceful protestors on April 2 and an end to continuous harassment. We will test the government's resolve to oppress us by protesting with black bands on Sansad Marg and courting arrest at social justice minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot's residence on April 18."

He added: "We Ambedkarities don't want a civil war. Even if you shoot 10,000 of us, we won't resist.... We call upon all Dalit, Adivasi, Other Backward Class and Muslim organisations and others interested in improving the country to join us."

At the Press Club meeting, several Ambedkarites from the outskirts of Delhi alleged they were being framed in false cases after the strike, and that no action had been taken against the goons who attacked their rallies.

Shriram Hiteshi, an 85-year-old educationist from Jatwada in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, has been booked in two FIRs at two police stations.

The charges include attempt to murder and offences under nine other penal code sections as well as provisions of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984, and the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1932.

"I can't walk much, so I rode a scooter to hand over a memorandum to the collector. After the FIRs, the young men have fled. I won't," Hiteshi said.

"We were peaceful. We shouted slogans at the collectorate for two hours. We will not be oppressed any more."