The Bhim Army, which hit headlines after the Saharanpur riots of 2017, is making quiet inroads in Uttar Pradesh to oust the BJP and the RSS in the next Lok Sabha elections.
Though the Bhim Army claims it is a group working towards social emancipation and not a political party, it has made it clear that it will appeal in favour of those who are in a position to trounce the BJP and the RSS in the next general elections.
“We are not a political party but followers of Baba Saheb Bhimrao Ambedkar who are working for uplift of deprived sections of society, especially Dalits. We are against the BJP and the RSS as they indulge in communal politics,” Bhim Army president Vinay Ratan Singh told PTI.
“The communal politics of the BJP and the RSS gives strength to casteism and communalism and leads to fight for supremacy in society,” Singh said in an interview.
“In the coming elections, we will create an awakening against the BJP and the RSS and make appeal in favour of those in position to trounce them,” he said.
These appeals, he said, will be at the personal level and should not be construed as the Bhim Army taking a plunge into politics.
Singh, who has been working to ensure the release of Bhim Army’s founder Chandra Shekhar from jail, said people need to know as to how the BJP government has been working “arbitrarily” and putting people behind bars and imposing the stringent NSA against them.
Claiming that the arrest of Chandra Shekhar after the Saharanpur caste riots in 2017 catapulted the popularity of the Bhim Army, Singh said the outfit’s reach has grown “manifold” and today it has presence in almost all states.
“We are working at the ground level on social issues like literacy, prohibition and bringing back those who left schools …issues which otherwise go unnoticed by political parties” he stressed.
The Bhim Army was in the news last year when it defied the denial of permission to hold a protest rally in Delhi.
Thousands of Dalits swamped New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar area, protesting against the Uttar Pradesh government’s alleged silence on the Saharanpur caste-based riots.
The Dalit leaders spearheading the protest had reportedly approached the Delhi Police for permission to hold an assembly of around 15,000 Dalits from Uttar Pradesh to protest “selective” police action against Dalits in Saharanpur violence.
However, the infuriated leaders decided to go ahead with their agitation after the administration denied request.
The Bhim Army had also invited the ire of BSP president Mayawati, who had described it as “a product of BJP” to dent her Dalit vote bank.
Mayawati had alleged that Bhim Army members used to “extort money” from people on the birth anniversary of BR Ambedkar by calling themselves “BSP’s well-wishers” and had also appealed to people to celebrate such occasions only under BSP banner.
Interestingly, during the recent Kairana Lok Sabha bypoll, the Bhim Army had made an appeal to voters in favour of the opposition candidate who managed to get Dalit support there despite Mayawati remaining silent.
Bhim Army activists move from village to village working among the people, especially Dalits at the grassroot level earning them considerable acceptance and popularity in the western parts of the state, he said.
“After the arrest of Chandra Shekhar, there have been calls from all over the country to us and we have expanded our area of work to several states,” Singh said.
The Bhim Army is presently working to seek the release of Chandra Shekhar ‘Ravan’, who has been in jail on charges of engineering caste riots in Saharanpur last year.