The Bhim Army has said that it will hold a ‘Jail Bharo Andolan [Occupy Prisons movement]’ on September 17 if the case against its leaders and Dalit protesters is not taken back.
The outfit said its supporters will also burn the effigies of the BJP government as they protest against "police atrocities on Bhim Army leaders and targeting of Dalits".
National chief general secretary of Bhim Army, Kamal Singh Walia, and over 750 people from the Bhim Army and Dalit community have been accused by the police of pelting stones during a protest. The accused were protesting against the vandalism of a BR Ambedkar statue on September 10. The police have filed complaints against 750 persons in this case, and have named 104 people.
A statue of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution, was allegedly vandalised by men belonging to the dominant caste in Ghunna village of Saharanpur district on September 10. The incident had triggered anger among the residents of the village, mostly from the Dalit community. The villagers, led by members of Dalit-Ambedkarite outfit Bhim Army, staged a protest against the demolition on the same day. The protesters had also blocked the Behat-Saharanpur road and chanted slogans against the government. The angry protesters demanded that the people responsible for vandalising the statue be arrested immediately and also called for the installation of a new statue of Ambedkar.
Meanwhile, Bhim Army district in-charge Praveen Gautam told NewsClick that efforts are being made to break the Bahujan Samaj and Bhima Army. Dalits are being targeted and no action has been taken against those who broke the statue of Ambedkar, he said.
"We will start jail bharo andolan on September 17 from Saharanpur and later, we will take it across the country. There are three reasons behind this andolan: Vandalism of BR Ambedkar’s statue, demolition of the Ravidas temple in Tughlakabad, Delhi and imprisonment of our 96 leaders including Chandrashekhar Azad. The police are working under the BJP government’s pressure and are taking action against us only. Those who broke the temple are roaming freely, just because they belong to the upper caste,” he said.
Gautam alleged, “The police said that they are taking action because Dalits blocked the highway and pelted stones. But the reality is that the people from the Rajput community had done that. A video has also been doing rounds on social media where brother of the Piki village sarpanch can be seen pelting stones and abusing the Dalits, but there has been no action against him. No Bhim Army member or Dalit pelted stones.”
When asked why Bhim Army is being targeted, he said, "There are top four leaders in Bhim Army and three have been sent to jail: Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad, National President Vinay Ratna and Vice President Manjeet Singh Nautiyal. Only national chief general secretary of Bhim Army Kamal Singh Walia was left, who is not in the jail and he is the one who leads all our protests. This is key reason both the police and the BJP government are targeting him.”
“The ground reality is that when the angry protesters blocked the highway on September 10 over the demolition of BR Ambedkar statue, the police administration had called him for help and he did help. He convinced the people and helped ease the traffic. And police have rewarded him with several cases of Indian Penal Code (IPC). He was booked under 307, 354 and Section 7. The action has been initiated against those who were not even present during the protest," said Gautam.
He further added that when he, along with others, went to meet Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), he refused to meet and asked them to meet Superintendent of Police (SP). Gautam claimed that the SP threatened to send them to the jail.
Also read: 2 Ambedkar Statues Vandalised Within A Week in UP’s Saharanpur