New Delhi: Bhim Army leader Chandrashekhar Azad was taken into custody by the Deoband police on Tuesday but was later admitted in a Meerut hospital after he reported unwell.
The arrest comes ahead of a rally on dalit rights being planned in New Delhi on March 15 by the Bhim Army. It was in connection with the mobilisation for the rally that the Deoband police took Azad into custody, citing the model code of conduct into force in view of the Lok Sabha elections.
While Azad was arguing with the police, he felt unwell and was admitted in a Meerut hospital. At that time, JNU Students Union President N Sai Balaji, All India Students Association (AISA) national president Sucheta De and national vice president Farhan were present.
In preparation for the March 15 ‘Hunkar’ rally in Delhi, the Bhim Army had started a mobilisation campaign on Monday in Saharanpur, which entailed holding marches, vehicle rallies etc to raise awareness on the issue of dalit rights.
On Tuesday, a rally was scheduled to be held in Deoband and on Wednesday in Muzaffarnagar, and then via Meerut to Delhi. Bhim Army had been mobilising its members not just from Uttar Pradesh, but from across the country.
After being taken into custody by the police, Azad said: “They want us to sit quietly. But we are not slaves. We are free and will fight for our rights. Let them take us to jail or anywhere else. We will carry our fight ahead and on March 15, a sea of blue (the colour of the Bhim Army flag) will flood Delhi.”
De told Newsclick over phone that she had reached Deoband with Balaji and Farhan on Tuesday but when they reached, they saw the police had ‘forcefully’ prevented the Bhim Army leader from holding the march.
The police maintained that the election model code of conduct had come into force and no rally or march could be taken out without prior permission. The Bhim Army’s argument was that it was not a political party and neither was Chandrashekhar Azad contesting the elections. It said it was a social organisation and had taken prior permission from the local authorities, adding that now that the elections had been announced, the district magistrate was the right authority to give approval. But, the police refused to heed his request.
According to De, the March 15 rally is being held by the ‘bahujan samaj’ in protest against growing attacks on the dalit movement, mob lynching and exploitation of vulnerable groups, for which an awareness campaign is being conducted. She accused the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh and the Narendra Modi government at the Centre of preventing Azad’s march from being held so that the harsh reality about dalit atrocities does not reach the people.
Balaji told Newsclick that he was headed to the Meerut hospital where Azad was admitted, reiterating that the March 15 rally in Delhi would be held, come what may. The leaders called for even greater mobilisation for the Delhi rally to protest against the high-handedness of the state police and administration.
Meanwhile, Dipankar Bhattacharya, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), in a tweet condemned the arrest of Chandrashekar Azad, adding that everyone had the right to peacfully raise their demands and take out marches.