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Will Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar’s release trigger a new Dalit movement in UP?

An overwhelming youth support to Bhim Army has compelled Dalit leaders to admit that educated new generation of Dalits is now looking for fresh, energetic and dedicated leadership.

india Updated: Sep 16, 2018 16:05 IST
S Raju
S Raju
Hindustan Times, Meerut
Bhim Army,Chandrashekhar,Dalit movement
Dalit youth may shift their loyalty to the Bhim Army as they see Chandrashekhar as their role model.(HT File Photo)

Bhim Army leader Chandrahekhar, who was released from jail after over an year, and his Bhim Army may give rise to a new Dalit movement in Uttar Pradesh which can pose a threat to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) as the community’s educated new generation looks for young and dynamic leadership. Dalit youths can play a pivotal role in triggering this as they have emerged as the the outfit’s backbone, say Dalit leader and activists.

Thousands of Dalit youths had gathered outside the jail ahead of Chandrashekhar’s release on Friday, shouting slogans like ‘Bhim Army Zindabad’ and ‘ Jai Bheem’ for hours and compelling the administration to strategically delay his release till the early hours so that the situation could be managed.

Such overwhelming youth support to the Bhim Army has compelled Dalit leaders to admit that the community’s educated new generation is now looking for a fresh, energetic, vocal and dedicated leadership. Emotionally and socially associated with the BSP till now, these youths may shift their loyalty to the Bhim Army as they see Chandrashekhar as their role model, mentor and “saviour”, they say, adding his 16 months in jail also created a sympathy wave for him.

Undergraduate student Ajeet Singh said, “He (Chandrashekhar) taught us to live with dignity and respect and he has the potential to be a leader of the exploited and marginalised classes and Dalits.”

Dalit leaders say that BSP`s failure to project a second line leadership in the organisation has also compelled Dalit youths to look for an alternative, new and energetic leadership. Dalit leader Sushil Gautam said movements created leaders and Chandrashekhar’s ideology was not confined to a particular caste and community.

“His Bahujan ideology comprised social, political and economic issues and talked about justice in all these domains. His approach and commitment has kindled hope among Dalit youths for potential leadership and that was why they were rallying behind him,” he said.

Chandrashekhar’s association with another popular Dalit leader and Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani is another factor which has inclined youths towards this emerging youth leadership, which has potential to challenge the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The Bhim Army proved its strength during the Kairana parliamentary by-election in which Chandrashekhar’s supporters voted against the BJP to ensure its defeat.

Angry with the BJP for sending Dalits to jail during the April 2 Bharat Bandh, youths are adamant on teaching the saffron party a lesson and they believe that Chandrashekhar has more potential than BSP chief Mayawati in challenging the BJP, even without contesting elections.

Chandrashekhar’s remark on Mayawati’s age is being seen as a covert message to youths to think with whom they want to stick with in future. Interacting with the media after his release, Chandrashekhar had said that he respected Mayawati but had also referred to her age. He declared that he would focus on strengthening the organisation and associating youths and people with it.

Dalit leader Jai Prakash, who was expelled from the BSP for his comment against Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, also said that Dalit youths were looking for young leadership and it could be anyone. Prakash recently had shared the dais with the Bhim Army at a function in Delhi and admitted that he had a soft corner for the organisation because it had been doing good social work.

Another Dalit leader claimed that like Jai Prakash, there were many Dalit leaders who had a soft corner for Bhim Army and they could soon be part of a new Dalit movement in the region. He even said that “those who have been expelled from the BSP may join hands with Bhim Army”.

The popularity of Chandrashekhar could be gauged from the fact that people convened panchayats in their respective areas after his arrest and collected donations to fund Bhim Army projects in his absence, he said.

Dalit leader Sushil Gautam disclosed that people of Dalit-dominated localities in Kaliagarhi, Kankerkhera and Tejgarhi in Meerut collected funds for donation and similar support also poured in from Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur and many other districts of the region and different parts of the country. This showed peoples’ support and affection for the Bhim Army and its chief Chandrashekhar, he said.

Sources said BJP MP from Saharanpur Raghav Lakhanpal also played a vital role in Chandrashekhar’s release because of the coming Lok Sabha elections. Bhim Army had a stronghold in Saharanpur and before the elections, the BJP wanted to pacify Dalits, they said.

BSP leader and MP Munkad Ali, however, rejected the possibility of any adverse effect on his party’s chances due to emergence of the Bhim Army, saying it was a social organisation and BSP was a political outfit which had its own support base and cadre.

First Published: Sep 16, 2018 14:24 IST