‘Caste census needed, it’ll hold mirror to society’

In this edition of Delhi Dialogues, Azad Samaj Party chief Chandrashekhar fields questions on a range of issues on Dalit politics.
Azad Samaj Party chief Chandrashekhar Azad
Azad Samaj Party chief Chandrashekhar AzadPhoto | Parveen Negi, EPS

Shahid Faridi: We have among us the rising star of equality politics who has worked for almost two decades in fostering social and political awakening among different depressed classes, especially Dalits. Chandrashekhar scored a stunning victory on his own as a candidate of his Azad Samaj Party fighting against the mammoth machinery of the BJP and the huge presence of the Congress and Samajwadi Party.

Chandra Shekhar Azad:

I belong to a small village which was earlier in Uttarakhand and now on the UP border. I did my education there up to inter-college. Then I took admission in DAV PG College Dehradun. I completed my law from there. My father wanted me to go abroad for further education. In 2009, cybercrime was a serious subject. My father believed if I have a course on cyber crime from abroad, I’ll get a good opportunity here. However, his health deteriorated — a third-stage lung cancer.

The circumstances turned my life upside down. In 2013, he passed away. I believe he had something on his mind when he used to tell me, ‘I don’t know anyone here working for Baba Saheb (Ambedkar) and Kashi Ram ji’s mission (BSP founder). I don’t know when the depressed class will stand on their own feet’.

I thought I’d dedicate my life to that moment. In 2014, we formed a social organisation, Bhim Army. In 2017, an incident at Sabbirpur near Deoband escalated. I informed the administration, but then I was falsely accused. I was implicated in 40 cases. I spent 16 months in jail.

If you read history, you’d realise Baba Saheb formed his own party because of Congress and Muslim League. Then there was Kanshi Ram, who wanted to do what Baba Saheb had tried to do. So we fought elections in 2023 in MP and Rajasthan. In 2024, we decided to fight a serious battle not only from Nagina but also from Dumariyaganj where our party candidate got more votes than BSP.

Santwana Bhattacharya: There’s a lot of heroism in your story. You have graduated to mainstream parliamentary politics — a big transition in a way. So now, and you are not aligned with either India Alliance or NDA. Tell us how the Modi government is functioning in terms of policy and rights issues.

I have been observing various developments for 10 years. About the present government’s functioning, everyone knows this time, it is not in a position to have a dictatorship role. As far as I am concerned, my interest is how we will proceed now; I want to be a strong voice in Parliament. There’s a great need for a major change in the education policy. We are going to fight against big people and leaders because I believe that hasn’t happened for a long time. Lots of people have dreams to do good work but they are unable to do due to their poor economic situation. A major challenge is how to fight against those who are part of policy making. Privatisation is dominant in school education.

The same principle applies to the existing health policy. My father could have been saved if I had money or political connections. No one should be treated like this.

Preetha Nair: Would you align with INDIA bloc since its vision seems similar to yours? Independent candidates don’t get enough time to speak in the House...

I will make most of whatever time I will have in Parliament. I’d take to the streets to ensure that my voice is heard. I’ll assist my people wherever they are. I want to say that no one (in the opposition) is discussing the policies as we do.

Shahid Faridi: Mayawati doesn’t like you. You didn’t get ticket from INDIA bloc and BJP is your opponent. Why no party wants to align with you?

Nobody wants to see a new person in politics. At my age, I have a lot of passion to work. See what BJP is doing. It is providing free ration to people so that they stop questioning them. The Opposition thinks that if BSP loses, everyone will get some votes from them. That’s why they don’t want to see me in politics.

Ketan Tanna: Do you think caste census is important?

It’s very important and should be done. The real change came when the Constitution was enacted. People from different religions and ideologies say reservations should end. What has reservation given us? Only government jobs, which account merely 2% of the total employment? How will deserving people get opportunities? Do a survey, and you will find that 2-5 crore women have never traveled by plane. I believe a caste census will hold mirror to the people, showing them who deserves how much.

Suchitra Kalyan Mohanty: You claim the judiciary is not impartial. How do you want the judiciary could remain independent?

I believe the collegium system is ailing the judiciary and we should do away with it. I remember when an issue about reservation in promotions came up, the Supreme Court said to demote first, then they would listen. The order came very late. Article 16(4A) states that promotion should be given even in reservations. But the SC did not reconsider it, which is why we face difficulties. We want justice for everyone.

Yeshi Seli: There are people from oppressed communities who have made it big after receiving reservation benefits. Do you expect them to support your cause?

The caste system in India is quite dangerous. Even Dalits and backwards who have been uplifted want to stay away from those who are left behind and from the community they belong to. They are wannabes who want to be treated equal among those who have oppressed them. However, the moment their caste is known, they are treated differently. You can be friends with the backwards until you don’t know their caste. People who have been uplifted don’t care about the community or the people they belong to. That is why those who are ignored even by their own people have sent me to raise their voice.

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