Bhim Army founder Chandrashekhar alias Ravan, after spending 15 months in jail, was released from the Saharanpur jail on Friday, a day after the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath-government ordered his release.
Chandrashekhar was booked for his alleged role in last year’s caste violence in Saharanpur district, involving Dalits, upper caste Thakurs and Police.
As Chandrashekhar was released from the jail, hundreds of Bhim Army supporters gathered, raising slogans of ‘Bhim Army Zindabad’ and ‘Chandrashekhar Zindabad’ and garlanding him.
Ravan’s Background –
Chandrashekhar Azad alias Ravan was born in Dhadkuli village near Chatmalpur in Saharanpur (Uttar Pradesh). He is a law graduate, who runs free schools for Dalits in western Uttar Pradesh.
In 2014, together with Vinay Ratan Singh, Chandrashekhar co-founded the Bhim Army Bharat Ekta Mission, an unregistered organisation that works for the emancipation of Dalits through education in India. The main object behind the Bhim Army was to fight for the development of Dalits and other marginalised sections.
In 2015, Chandrashekhar put up a board, reading ‘The Great Chamars of Dhadkauli Welcome You’, at his native place. This marked his first stint with controversy and he was catapulted to spotlight.
About Bhim Army –
Quite popular among the members of lower castes in UP, Chandrashekhar’s Bhim Army claims to have over 40,000 members across seven states. According to the local residents, the organisation humbly welcomes any Dalit or Muslim aging 18 to 25, to join the unit. Most of the members in the unit now belong to the Chamar community or its sub-caste Jatav.
At present, the group runs around 300 schools to improve the standards of education among them.
About 2017 turmoil –
In early May last year, Saharanpur district boiled over with caste clashes between Dalits and Thakurs. The Dalit community had objected to loud music being played by the upper caste Thakurs during a procession to honour Rajput ruler Maharana Pratap, which later led to massive protests and riots. One of the Thakurs lost his life while 24 Dalit homes were set on fire.
Chandrashekhar was named as an accused in a total of 24 FIRs by the state police for his alleged role in fanning the protest by members of the Dalit community in the district.
In late May 2017, the Bhim Army took out a massive protest rally through Lutyen’s Delhi, its supporters waving placards with BR Ambedkar’s photograph as well as blue flags, chanting “Jai Bhim” slogans and wearing masks of Azad’s face. Ravan later ended up appearing on stage to speak to supporters, saying that he is going to surrender.
On June 2, 2017, police investigations found that as many as 90% of violence inciting social media accounts were linked to the radical Dalit group Bhim Army led by 30-year-old lawyer Chandrashekhar Azad who was then absconding.