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Saharanpur violence: Bheem Army founder Chandrashekhar arrested

Chandrashekhar was wanted by police in connection with widespread violence that occurred on May 9 in Saharanpur.

india Updated: Jun 13, 2017 09:45 IST
S Raju
S Raju
Hindustan Times, Meerut
Bheem Army,Chandrashekhar,Saharanpur
Chandrashekhar (Centre) during protests against anti-Dalit violence at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.(HT File Photo)

After being on the run for about a month, the founder of the Bheem Army, Chandrashekhar, was arrested on Thursday. He will be produced in court on Friday.

Chandrashekhar was wanted by police in connection with widespread violence that occurred on May 9 in Saharanpur.

After clashes between Thakurs and Dalits that left one person dead and many injured on May 5, Chandrashekhar and his supporters proposed convening a ‘mahapanchayat’ for local Dalits on May 9. When the administration refused to give permission for the meeting, violence erupted on the streets. Bheem Army supporters torched a police checkpoint and civilian vehicles.

Chandrashekhar had been on the run ever since.

The additional director general of the Meerut police, Anand Kumar, confirmed Chandrashekhar’s arrest, from Dalhousie of Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh, and his appointment in a Saharanpur court.

Kumar said that a special investigation team was probing 47 cases of caste violence that occurred between May 5 and 23. Thirty of these, he said, involved the Bheem Army and its supporters.

Kumar added that he has recommended the director general of police to declare awards for the officers who arrested Chandrasekhar.

The Uttar Pradesh police had announced a bounty of Rs 12,000 for information leading to Chandrashekhar’s arrest.

After the police registered cases against Bheem Army activists, Chandrashekhar went underground and used social media as a tool to remain in touch with his supporters.

During its investigation, the district administration found that the Bheem Army was not properly registered with the government. Officials in the state administration said Chandrashekhar had submitted documents to get the outfit registered, but that his application was rejected, since no organisation is allowed to use the word ‘army’ in its name.

“Chandrashekhar asked his supporters to deposit money in some personal bank accounts for membership, which is illegal,” added a police official.

The organisation has approximately 1,200 members according to the police, most of them youths who use social media to garner support from Dalits.

“Bheem Army is an organised gang,” said the police official. “Chandrashekhar and other office-bearers are accused of hatching a conspiracy. Letters have been sent to the banks to freeze the organisation’s accounts. The economic offence wing may also be asked to investigate the outfit’s source of income and legality of transactions.”

Dalits, however, claim that the Bheem Army is a social organisation working to protect Dalits from atrocities at the hands of the police and members of dominant castes.

Many villagers said that Bheem Army activists took care of Dalits who sustained injuries during the violence and provided food and medicine to victims in the Shabbirpur village of Saharanpur.

Local villagers said in interviews that the Bheem Army runs schools to provide free education to Dalit children. In Ambehetta Chandpur village, some elderly villagers have asked people to collect and donate money to the outfit.

May 9: Bheem Army’s founder Chandrashekhar gives a call for a Dalit mahapanchayat in Saharanpur. The district administration forbids the meeting, which leads to clashes between the police and Bheem Army supporters.
May 10: Police register more than 30 cases against Bheem Army activists and Chandrashekhar. More than 20 Bheem Army activists are arrested for indulging in violence. Chandrashekhar goes underground but continues to use social media to keep in touch with his supporters.
May 24: The state government suspends district magistrate NP Singh and senior superintendent Subhash Chandra Dubey for failing to maintain law and order.
May 25: The district administration suspends internet services.
June 5: The deputy inspector general of Saharanpur police, KS Emmanuel, declares a reward of Rs 12,000 for information leading to the arrest of Chandrashekhar.
June 8: Chandrashekhar is arrested in Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh.

First Published: Jun 08, 2017 16:45 IST