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3 Jun 2017

Mom bats for Dalit hero - Cops detain and quiz Bhim Army chief's family

Chandrashekhar addresses the rally in Delhi on May 21
Piyush Srivastava, TT, Lucknow, June 2: The mother of Bhim Army founder and upcoming Dalit youth leader Chandrashekhar today told reporters that her son, who has been in hiding for over three weeks, would never surrender.
"My son is an emerging Dalit youth icon in whom the downtrodden people of northern India see a saviour," Kamlesh said at her village of Chhutmalpur in the western Uttar Pradesh district of Saharanpur, a hotspot of Dalit-Thakur clashes.
Police had detained and questioned Kamlesh and younger son Kamal Kishore for a few hours last evening, on suspicion they were trying to foment trouble, after they had invited local Dalit activists to a meeting.
"Chandrashekhar will keep raising his voice for the victims of the existing social and political system even if the government calls it a crime," Kamlesh told the media today.
"Uttar Pradesh's jails won't be able to accommodate his followers if he is arrested. Every Dalit will court arrest."
Chandrashekhar, a 29-year-old lawyer who had formed the avowedly non-violent Bhim Army in 2015 to unite the Dalits against oppression, has been named in two FIRs.
One of them accuses him of instigating Dalit violence during the May 9 protests in Saharanpur against a May 5 clash in Shabbirpur village that left a Thakur dead and 55 Dalit homes in ashes. The other accuses him of defaming chief minister Yogi Adityanath, a Thakur whom the Dalits blame for the violence, on social media.
Chandrashekhar has been in hiding since May 9, briefly surfacing to address a rally in Delhi on May 21 where young Dalits proclaimed him their leader instead of former chief minister Mayawati. He had told the rally he would surrender to a court in a few days but disappeared again, while intermittently giving TV interviews from undisclosed locations.
While Chandrashekhar's stature seems to be growing among the young Dalits of western Uttar Pradesh --- every day activists come to meet Kamlesh --- not everyone in the community is happy.
Some Dalit and Ambedkarite groups believe that the Bhim Army is buckling under the intense police crackdown on its supporters and is intent on making peace with the BJP.
Some groups have interpreted the Bhim Army's May 25 proclamation distancing itself from violent protests as a "retreat" from the community's unusually assertive fightback against Thakurs in Saharanpur.
Mayawati, sensing a threat from Chandrashekhar's rising popularity, has accused the Bhim Army of being a BJP stooge bent on disrupting communal harmony.
BJP leaders have hinted at back-channel contact with Chandrashekhar and cited the police's lack of interest in seeking a court warrant against him as a political move to placate a man they claim had past links with Sangh student arm ABVP.
None of this seems to have had any effect on his young supporters. "The Bhim Army has expanded its influence to six other north Indian states in recent months," Kamal told reporters.
Chandrashekhar had yesterday uploaded a video on the social media showing him accepting the blessings of family members of late Dalit icon and Bahujan Samaj Party founder Kanshi Ram at Khawaspur village in Rupnagar district, Punjab, the police said.
"We then learnt that his mother and brother had called a meeting of Dalit activists at their village on the pretext of holding a news conference," a senior officer in Lucknow said.
As a police team arrived at the village, Kamlesh and Kamal changed the venue to a government park at Bamiyan Bauddh Vihar, about 15km away, and arrived there on a motorbike around 5pm.
Hoping that Chandrashekhar might visit the spot, a crime branch team too was sent there. They took Kamal and Kamlesh to the police station. They were released at night.
Chandrashekhar had told the Delhi rally he wouldn't join politics. Zainul Abidin, convener of the United Labour Party of India, a small-time social organisation of Hindus and Muslims that is influential in parts of western Uttar Pradesh, said the young lawyer should change his mind.
"Chandrashekhar is a real hero to his community. He should keep his distance from the Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, BJP and the Samajwadi Party, and reconsider his decision to stay away from electoral politics," he said.

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