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Main accused in Saharanpur violence arrested

Chandrashekhar is the founder of the Bhim army. Photograph: (DNA)

PTI Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India Jun 08, 2017, 11.23 AM (IST)

Chandrashekhar, founder of the Bhim army and the main man accused in the Saharanpur violence has been arrested today from Himachal Pradesh. The 30-year-old activist was nabbed from Dalhousie area of Himachal Pradesh, told the additional DG (Meerut Zone) Anand Kumar over phone to PTI. He will be brought to Saharanpur on a transit remand.

Earlier, two members of the Bhim Army were arrested from Saharanpur for their alleged involvement in the Ramnagar caste violence on May 9 after one person was killed and several others were injured in a clash between Dalits and Thakurs at Shabbirpur village in the district on May 5.

About a dozen police vehicles were set ablaze and 12 policemen were injured on May 9. Chandrasekhar, who had since been evading arrest, was carrying a reward of Rs 12,000 on his head.

The Uttar Pradesh police had recently constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) comprising 10 inspectors to probe 40 cases, registered between May 5 to May 23, in Saharanpur district which has seen bouts of inter-caste clashes last month.

Chandrasekhar had shot to limelight after holding a demonstration at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi against violence on Dalits in Saharanpur. He had earlier said that he would surrender if 37 "innocent" Dalits were released on bail.

"I feel that the UP government has failed to address the issues of the Dalits. The chief minister has lost control over the police and the administration. There have been more cases of atrocities against the Dalits in the past two-and-a-half months as compared to last one year," he told PTI.

"Instead of arresting the real culprits of the Saharanpur violence, the police has arrested innocent people and put them behind bars. This has resulted in growing anger among the Dalits," he said.

The cycle of violence in Saharanpur began on May 5, when a man was killed, several injured and around 25 homes were set ablaze in inter-caste clashes in Shabbirpur village. The district has remained tense ever since and violence has erupted repeatedly.

On May 23, another person was shot dead and two others were wounded, following which the government had suspended the senior superintendent of police and district magistrate and transferred the divisional commissioner and the deputy inspector general of police.

The opposition parties in Uttar Pradesh have been attacking the ruling BJP over the violence in Saharanpur. BSP leader Mayawati visited Shabbirpur to counter the growing influence of Bhim Army by mobilising her party cadre in the region.

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi had met the victims of Saharanpur caste clashes and their family members at the district's border even after authorities denied him permission to visit the violence-hit area. The Centre has since sent 400 anti-riot police personnel to Saharanpur district administration to help restore peace in the region.

Chandrashekhar Azad 'Ravan', a young Saharanpur lawyer, and Vinay Ratna Singh had founded the Bhim Army in July 2015 to serve the interests of Dalits in the Saharanpur region where Rajputs and Dalits are involved in a long-drawn tussle for dominance and fight against oppression.

Chandrashekhar belongs to Chhutmalpur village adjoining Shabbirpur, the epicentre of recent troubles.

Though the mission of the Bhim Army was to educate the community's children free of cost with their first school coming up two years ago at Saharanpur's Bhado village, it came into limelight in April when an Ambedkar Jayanti procession was stopped by upper caste Rajputs.

Chandrashekhar's strength became visible when thousands of Dalits staged a protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi against police action and atrocities by the upper castes and emerged as the new champion of Dalit cause. The sudden rise of the Bhim Army under the leadership of Chandrashekhar has unnerved BSP supreme Mayawati, making her all the more worried after he succeeded in mobilising Dalits in western UP. 


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