LUCKNOW: With the Bahujan Samaj Party and its brand of Dalit politics in a tailspin in Uttar Pradesh, a number of young, aggressive and assertive Dalit leaders have emerged on the political landscape of the state.
This became evident shortly after the change of guard in the state in March 2017 and widespread caste violence in Saharanpur between upper caste Thakurs and Dalits. Both these events heralded the emergence of Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ and his Bhim Army as a Dalit force to reckon with.
The protest Azad led in Delhi to make the Dalit voice heard and his subsequent arrest led to the rise of a leadership that looks beyond electoral politics, as of now, when it comes to upliftment of the community.
At the start of 2018, as caste violence singed parts of Maharashtra, its heat could be felt in far-off west UP. Several Dalit bodies planned Bheem Gyan Charcha in Khatauli, Muzaffarnagar, on January 7. The permission for the event, however, was withdrawn at the last moment and its convener Surajpal ‘Rakshas’ was apprehended.
The young Dalit leaders are drawing strength from the anti-upper caste movement being spearheaded by the likes of Jignesh Mewani in Gujarat and Sheetal Sathe in Maharashtra.
The Intelligence reports of UP Police mentioned a number of outfits like Jai Sindhu Sangh, Bhim Yuva Sangathan, Ambedkar Kalyankari Samiti and Lord Budha Sewa Santhan, apart from Bhim Army, trying to regroup and instigate Dalits in western UP districts like Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur, Shamli, Bijnor and Meerut.
Leaders such as Azad have gained quick popularity among the UP Dalits. Azad shot to fame while leading Dalits’ charge against influential Thakurs in Saharanpur in May 2017, following controversy over a procession that snowballed into a full-fledged conflagration. On May 9, a clash re-erupted between Thakurs and Dalits when the latter were demanding compensation for community members whose houses had been gutted during clashes in mid-April. Azad was arrested on June 8 by a Special Task Force on charges of inciting violence.
With Azad out of the picture, several young leaders tried to fill in. Prominent among them were Surajpal ‘Rakshas’, Rakhi ‘Ravan’, Virendra ‘Kumbhkaran’, Ravindra ‘Baudh’ Ambedkar, Kumari Mamta, Vinay Ratan Singh and Ravi Gautam. A common factor binding them was their abhorrence for the existing Dalit leadership in Indian politics and leaders like Mayawati, Ram Vilas Paswan and Ramdas Athawale.
The young leaders accuse the seasoned politicians of compromising on the principles that could have given Dalits a place of pride in society and politics. They are defiant of norms set by these netas and have adopted titles like ‘Rakshas’ and ‘Ravan’ which directly challenge the Brahmanical order.