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HindustanTimes Tue,21 Oct 2014

Dalit writer alleges life threat from UP minister

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  Lucknow, August 19, 2013
First Published: 14:19 IST(19/8/2013) | Last Updated: 20:30 IST(19/8/2013)

Dalit poet and writer Kanwal Bharti, who was arrested earlier this month for his Facebook post on suspended IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal, claimed on Sunday that Uttar Pradesh urban development minister Azam Khan could get him killed.

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In Lucknow to attend a function on freedom of expression, the writer alleged Khan had unleashed a reign of terror in his constituency, Rampur. He said, “Khan could get me killed over the next few months.”

The noted writer had criticised the Uttar Pradesh government in his post on the social networking site after Nagpal’s suspension and was arrested in Rampur on August 6 on grounds that his comments may cause communal strife. He was later released on bail.

While Bharti was critical of Khan on Sunday, he chose to go soft on chief minister Akhilesh Yadav saying he had “high hopes” from the Uttar Pradesh CM.

“I haven’t met the CM so far but I believe he would protect a citizen’s right to express oneself. I stand by my Facebook post. There was nothing wrong in what I said,” he said.

Dismissing suggestions that his post was politically motivated, he said, “I am an apolitical person.” He also criticised the state police for arresting him on grounds that his online posts could have triggered communal tension.

Bharti’s arrest had evoked strong condemnation from the online community. A Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice HL Gokhale, has also served a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government seeking its response on the eminent scholar's arrest.

The apex court had earlier directed the state government to strictly comply with the union government advisory, spelling out clearly that a person should not be arrested in such a case without taking permission from senior police officials.

Bharti, son of a cobbler, was raised in the slums of Rampur. He is the recipient of Dr Ambedkar National Award (1996) and Bhim Ratna Award (2001). Many of his poems have been included in the syllabus for postgraduate studies in various national universities.


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