Bhim Army Chief supremo Chandrashekhar Azad has been featured in TIME magazine’s annual list of 100 “emerging leaders who are shaping the future”. TwoCircles.net looks at the story of the young leader’s rise among the masses.
Aas Mohammad Kaif, TwoCircles.net
Late in the day on April 20, 2017, a video was going viral on social media. In this video, a young man clad in a blue shawl and bearing a serious look on his face was instructing the youth of the society on some issue. The young man sitting among seven-eight youths was saying that the youth should understand the conspiracy in the uproar that took place in the village Sadak Dudhli that day and should not quarrel with the Muslims. “They are our brothers. This dispute has been created by the people of BJP due to political malice. They want to increase their supremacy by making Dalits and Muslims fight among themselves. Both communities are weak and struggling. If they fight with each other, they will move towards their downfall,” he declared.
The young man speaking in the video was unknown to the world till that day, but he was a hero to those for whom the message was issued. The video was shared on WhatsApp and reached people’s homes. The climate changed within a single night. Hope turned to despair for those cultivating hate in the morning. The planners of the Dalit and Muslim riots failed. The youth of both sides did not fight.
The young man speaking in the video was Chandrashekhar Azad, the convener of the Bhim Army.
The elements involved in plotting the riots were so confident that they even attacked the residence of Saharanpur’s Police Captain. Even his nameplate was broken. They created ruckus in the Police chief’s residence. Still, the riots did not happen, even though all the possible pieces of the riots were laid. The atmosphere was very heated.
This tension among both the communities developed due to a procession.
On the Ravidas Jayanti, a quarrel occured in the Sadak Dudhli, a village situated 5 kilometres away on the Saharanpur-Dehradun highway. It was propagated that the procession of Ravidas Jayanti was stopped in the Muslim dominated area and people from the Dalit community have been attacked. Rumours were doing rounds. A rumour was being spread that the Dalits deliberately took the yatra off the fixed route and shouted slogans outside the mosque. The rumour spread all over Saharanpur. The district of Saharanpur, which is predominantly Dalit and Muslim, had come under a pile of gunpowder.
Anees Gada of Sadak Dudhli says that the video of ‘Chandrashekhar’ has come again. After the incident of Ghadakuli, Azad has resided in the hearts of the Dalit youths and every Dalit youth of Saharanpur followed his instructions. This video made a double impact. One was that all the misconceptions among Muslims had been dispelled, and secondly, the Dalit youths understood that people of Hindu organizations were conspiring by firing from their shoulders. Later, it became clear. Hundreds of youths from Hindu organizations had participated in this Ravidas procession. The flamboyant Chandrashekhar Azad had read into this. Naturally, after this incident, Chandrashekhar Azad became an eyesore for a particular group.
Twenty days after this incident, on May 9, Chandrasekhar Azad was made the prime accused in the violence that occurred in the protest against the atrocities against the Dalits. Locals believe that Chandrashekhar Azad was made the accused over the political displeasure caused to the Hindu organisations due to his efforts in the Sadak Dudhli incident. Following this, Chandrasekhar Azad became such an eyesore that he was arrested and every time his date was extended. Apart from him, more than 200 Bhim Army activists also went to jail.
After the May 9 violence in Saharanpur, the women sat on a dharna in the Ravidas temple in Ramnagar village in harsh winter. Demonstrations started in favour of Chandrasekhar Azad. The circumstances were such that a Bhim Army worker from prison would come out on bail and immediately hold a meeting. President of Bhim Army on Delhi Road (Police did not dare to arrest him here too.)
Chandrashekhar Azad came out of jail after 15 months.
A local activist of the Bhim Army, Praveen Gautam says that even after this, the government kept up all the efforts of repression. “Cases were registered against his brother, family and other colleagues,” he said.
Chandrashekhar Azad came out as more mature after coming out of jail from Saharanpur. “Do not celebrate my release. We are economically weaker sections. In such a situation, we should not spend money. Spend this money on the wedding of our sisters. Hundreds of innocents have been sent to jail in the incident of 2 April 2018, let us try to get them out of jail. The mission of the Bhima Army will now be spread across India. We will stand with every Majloom and Destitute,” he declared.
Arvind Gautam of Meerut says that Chandrasekhar Azad has been getting negative press and “his image of a goon was being created in a particular media.”
“It was being told that they are misleading the Dalit youth. The government could have been happy to send him to jail but it was good for Chandrashekhar Azad’s strong mental building. Chandrasekhar got time in jail and his statement after coming out of jail was reflecting this mature thinking,” he said.
Today the world has accepted the leadership of Chandrasekhar. His mention in the TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people is proof that he has kept the pledge to stand up for the weak. “This is the reason that despite the anti-CAA protests and all efforts to tarnish his image in the Hathras incident, society did not let his trust in him weaken,” says Gautam.
Reacting to the development, Mohsin Rao of Saharanpur says that it is not surprising at all. “This is quite normal. It is also a matter of courage to speak openly about the society from which Chandrasekhar came from. This society has always been oppressed. Now if the son of a Dalit is mentioned in a magazine like TIME, then he will give trouble to some so-called high people. But his success is good. There is a lot of potential in him,” he said.
Last year, Chandrashekhar Azad formed a political party. Although he could not get much traction due to the lockdown. He was discussed a lot during the Bihar elections but did not get the required vote.
Dayachand Bharti of Bijnor says that forming his party is a politically right decision. “This is a backup plan for society. It has much depth and it will not be understood by everyone. It is a different matter that revolution suits Chandrasekhar. He fights the war of the weak in a powerful way. Dalit youth have accepted him as their leader. Now, he has been featured in TIME Magazine. Wait a little, his time will also come,” he said.
These words of Dayachand Bharti are also reflected in the fact that ‘The Great Chamar’ board is installed in the Dalit dominated villages of western Uttar Pradesh. Here Chandrashekhar Azad is a hero among the Dalit youth. They cannot hear a word against Chandrashekhar Azad.
Vikas Jatav of Muzaffarnagar says that he stands with the society in all kinds of crises. “Today, he is not new but has been tested. He belongs to us and we belong to him. We all know he is the son of a poor household like us. He too has lived a life of paucity. He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth,” he added.