Thursday, June 7, 2018

Betwa Sharma - One Year After His Arrest, Chandrashekhar Azad Is A Prisoner Of The Yogi Adityanath Govt. No trial or bail.

June 8, 2018 marks one year since Chandrashekhar Azad, a rising Dalit leader in Uttar Pradesh, was arrested and imprisoned by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state government. Azad was incarcerated after a month-long cycle of caste violence had claimed the lives of two men, a Dalit and a Rajput, and left dozens injured in and around Shabbirpur village in Saharanpur district, last year. The 31-year-old was held on several serious charges including rioting, attempt to murder, unlawful assembly and looting, but he was granted bail by the Allahabad High Court on November 2. 

Justice Mukhtar Ahmad said the charges were "politically motivated." The same day, the Yogi Adityanath government concluded that Azad's release would threaten public order and national security, and hit him with preventive detention under the National Security Act, 1980. The 31-year-old lawyer, who also goes by the name Ravan, has been languishing in the Saharanpur district jail, without access to bail or a trial. Over the course of the past year, at least four Dalits, three in connection with the caste violence in Saharanpur, and another Bhim army leader, have been placed under the NSA. Preventive detention has not been invoked against any member of the upper-caste Rajput (Thakur) community in connection with violence. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath hails from the Thakur community.

'He doesn't know how to get out': Vinay Ratan Singh, who was lodged at the Saharanpur district jail until last week, told HuffPost India that Azad was suffering from a stomach and a throat infection, and he was in acute pain over a bad tooth. "His tooth hurts him a lot. He is in urgent need of surgery but all he is getting are some medicines from the shop inside the jail," he said. Singh, who was also arrested in connection with the caste violence in Saharanpur, was released on bail, last week. He is the national president of the Bhim Army, an organization founded by Azad in 2014 to work for the emancipation of Dalits. Singh, who spoke with Azad in prison, said the Bhim army chief was staying in a cell by himself, in an area the inmates call "tanahi," but he was holding out hope for his release. "He says, 'If I haven't done anything then how long can they keep me here. They will have to release me eventually,'" said Singh. "We have known each other a long time. I believe that this experience is only making him stronger."

In the past four years, while the Bhim Army was setting up schools to educate children about the Dalit movement, Azad had gradually ingratiated himself in the community. Young Dalit couples in UP and Uttarakhand are even putting his photograph in their wedding cards. Even with his growing clout in western UP, Azad had not run for political office. Until his arrest, last year, his Army appeared to be focused on social activities. Ahead of the crucial by-poll in Kairana, last month, Azad asked the "Bahujan Samaj" to vote for Tabassum Hasan, the candidate of the united opposition, against the BJP... read more: