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Kanshi Ram was my idol, Mayawati ruined the party: Bhim Army founder

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Jailed Dalit leader Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan claims his organisation has never indulged in violence and that he is a firm believer in Indian Constitution.

Saharanpur: Bhim Army founder Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan is currently lodged in UP’s Saharanpur jail following his arrest under the National Security Act last year. The Dalit leader is also fighting his case in the Allahabad High Court. In an interview with Associate Editor Kumar Anshuman — first after his arrest — Azad talks about future Dalit politics as well as why people are feeling betrayed under the BJP rule. Excerpts:

You are accused of trying to instigate a caste war and that’s why NSA has been imposed. What’s the status of your case?

In total, there are 23 cases against me and I have got bail in almost all the cases. On 31 October last year, I got bail in a few cases from Allahabad High Court and I would have been released from the jail very soon. But in two days, they imposed NSA on me just to keep me in jail.

What happened in May last year in Saharanpur was something that BJP had instigated. We follow Baba Saheb’s Constitution and have always resorted to peaceful protests. It is the intention of this government to divide the society along caste and religious lines.

What’s the purpose behind creating an ‘army’ of Dalits and how could you ensure that the people who are with you won’t resort to violence?

Did you see anybody from our organization indulge in any violent activity? First of all, Bhim Army is an organisation with a focus on upliftment and development of downtrodden in the society. We are firm believer in India’s Constitution and flag. Now tell me: is there any harm in talking about unity among the people, raising voice for fundamental rights? We are proud of our Indian Army and have no intention to build another army.

Are you planning to make it a political party?

Not at all. It would always remain an organisation, which would raise and fight for the issues of Dalits across the country.

In UP, there is BSP which still attracts Dalits. How different are you from them?

I am a great fan of Kanshi Ram Sa’ab. He founded BSP and established it as a party for Dalits, which no one else could even imagined in India. So, I have great respect for the party created by Kanshi Ram.

But leaders like Mayawati completely ruined the party. We all voted for BSP in the past but now it doesn’t cater to the aspirations of Dalits. You can see its downfall. They need some serious thinking on the kind of issues they will fight for.

Your friend Jignesh Mevani contested elections in Gujarat and has now become an MLA. Are you also planning to contest elections going forward?

I have no such plans. I want to get myself involved in a people’s movement and there are a lot of things which I can do without being an MLA or MP. But the other people in my organisation can fight elections depending upon the situation.

I can’t say now. I definitely want to work for the people. But this government has a problem. I challenge both Modiji and Yogiji. Take me out of the prison and choose a seat anywhere in UP. I will contest against you. I would also get to know how many hearts I have won over the years.

There are various Dalit movements going on in different parts of the country. Why are they not getting enough traction at national level?

I completely agree with you. The biggest problem is that everyone wants to lead a movement. There is no harm in joining others but there should be a vision and commitment to the cause. Let’s see if it takes a shape going forward.

Why are you opposed to the BJP government in the state and the Centre?

There are enough reasons for you to see and feel betrayed by this government. They used entire countrymen to gain political power and you see what kind of atmosphere they have created nationwide.

Dalits are being tortured; Muslims are being lynched, youth have no jobs, farmers committing suicide. Apart from the communal rhetoric, there is nothing on the ground.

Do you have any alternative to this kind of politics in mind?

I am not the one to build an alternative. But I think the political parties should come together despite the differences they have to defeat such a government. As an activist I would do my bit.

Do you see Rahul Gandhi as a potential challenger to Modi?

Rahul Gandhi, to my mind, is a genuine person who doesn’t talk much but talks sense. He is fair in whatever he says and his way of talking reflects honesty. It is the BJP which has spent so much money just to malign one person.

My job is not to judge a leader. If Rahul Gandhi walks the talk, what is the harm in liking him? I think he is young and has a vision for the country.

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