We the following Dalit and democratic rights organisations/groups in the UK condemn the continued unjust imprisonment of Dalit activists and Bhim Army leader Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ by the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government in India.
On 5th May 2017 in Saharanpur, UP, 50 houses of Dalits were set on fire and destroyed, Dalit men were beaten up and their women molested. Instead of the police taking swift stern action against the culprits, a number of Dalits who saw fit to defend themselves were arrested. Later in June 2017 the police arrested the founder of the Bhim Army Mr Chandrasekhar Azad ‘Ravan. He was accused of being involved in violence between Dalits and Rajputs in Saharanpur. Azad was granted bail in November 2017 by the Allahabad High Court that dismissed all four cases against him and his associate Kamal Walia (district President of Bhim Army) as ‘baseless’ and ‘politically motivated’. Despite that, the UP government of Yogi Adityanath maliciously rearrested Azad under the draconian National Security Act (NSA) to stop him from continuing his political and social campaign for Dalit rights. Azad is currently incarcerated under the notorious NSA that allows detention of up to a year without bail or trial. The one year period ended in May 2018 but his detention has been illegally extended twice and he is now due to appear for a hearing around December this year. The charges against him are completely fabricated, as observed by the Allahabad High Court earlier.
It is worth noting in this context that the Indian government has been using the black laws such as the NSA, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), which violate all known international human rights laws. These draconian laws have been used by the Indian authorities to suppress democratic dissent and the rights of the marginalised and oppressed people such as Dalits, Adivasis and religious minorities – Muslims, Christians, etc.
Chandrashekhar Azad is a lawyer and a respected leader of Dalits, not only in Uttar Pradesh but also outside his state. Azad stands for the cause of Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims. He organised Dalits into the ‘Bhim Army’– named after Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar, one of India’s greatest intellectuals and champion of the downtrodden people of India. The Bhim Army’s main work has been to set up over 300 study circles among Dalit students in western Uttar Pradesh, spread education among Dalit children and organise self-defence against violent attacks by upper-caste goons.
The reason why Azad and his associates have been imprisoned is because they refuse to be intimidated by the threats of both the private goons of the upper-caste as well as the Brahminical Hindutva State machinery. Azad’s imprisonment is also part of a wider attack by the ruling regimes in both UP and New Delhi to deny Constitutional rights to those who oppose their ideology or take up the cause of India’s oppressed, poor and downtrodden people.
We have had reports of attempts to break Azad both mentally and physically whilst in prison, including instigated attacks against him by his co-prisoners. Azad has also had to be hospitalised once due to ill-health and has expressed fears that State authorities may try to physically eliminate him, under some pretext. The serious threat posed to the life of Azad is similar to that faced by countless other jailed human rights defenders in places like Kashmir, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, the North-East States and Bhima Koregaon.
It is in this backdrop that we, the undersigned, send our message of solidarity to the protest in Delhi on 19th August 2018. We join in their call for immediate and unconditional release of Chandrashekhar Azad and his associates from prison.
- Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance
- The Federation Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organisations UK
- Ravidass Community Centre Hitichin
- Indian Workers’ Association Great Britain (COC)
- Shri Guru Ravidass Cultural Association Darlaston
- Peace in Kurdistan Campaign
- Ambedkar Mission Society Bedford
- Bhagvan Valmiki Sabha Bedford
- Indian Scheduled Caste Welfare Association
- Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha Derby