Chandrashekhar: Mastermind behind Jantar Mantar protest

New Delhi: Chandrashekhar, a lawyer from Chhutmalpur – a village in the neighbourhood of Shabbirpur, where clashes erupted early this month, is the man behind Jantar Mantar protest.

With an ambition of becoming a top lawyer, Chandrashekar was had planned to go to the US for higher studies in 2011. But, he delayed the process to attend his ailing father at a Saharanpur hospital, where he heard, read and came to know about the real issues troubling the Dalits – people from his own community. There and then he terminated the idea of going abroad and made up his aim to join the ‘mainstream’.

In 2015, Chandrashekhar formed the Bheem Army Ekta Mission, which claims to have over 40,000 members across seven states. It claims to have sizeable number of members in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan

On May 5, Shabbirpur village of Saharanpur in western Uttar Pradesh became a new theatre of violence. Thakurs and Dalits, clashed over taking out a procession in the name of medieval king Maharana Pratap. Clashes erupted after some of Dalit residents of Shabbirpur refused to allow the procession by Thakurs to mark the birth anniversary of Maharana Pratap. Several people on both sides got injured in the clashes.

Four days later, the Dalit group decided to show its might by holding a mahapanchayat (grand assembly) on May 9 at the Gandhi Park in Saharanpur city.

Their demand was to seek compensation and relief for those (Dalits) injured in the May 5 violence. But, the administration, sensing trouble, denied the permission to hold a mahapanchayat.

After May 9, when they were denied permission to hold a mahapanchayat in Saharanpur, the Dalit groups took to the streets. A spate of violence followed. Dalit protesters allegedly set a police post and over two-dozen vehicles on fire.

Police would later know that a lawyer named Chandrashekhar was behind the idea of holding a mahapanchayat. Saharanpur police would get an arrest warrant against Chandrashekhar, who would evade the cops till he held a huge protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi yesterday..

According to police, Chandrashekhar had been actively organising the protest by sending messages through WhatsApp and other social media platforms soon after May 5 clashes.

Incidentally, processions on Ambedkar Jayanti are banned in Saharanpur for past seven years.

Shabbirpur is about 35 km from the district headquarters of Saharanpur. The village constitutes about 900 families of Dalits and 600 Thakur houses.

Violence has been a routine in this village. Reports suggest that the Thakurs had in 2016 objected to installation of a statue of BR Ambedkar on the premises of the Ravidas Mandir in the village.

To its contradiction, the Dalits stopped to passage of procession in the memory of Maharana Pratap through their area in the village this year.

A major controversy had broken out last year, when Chandrashekhar and his Bheem Army came face to face for the first time.

Some Dalit activists wanted to put up a board that read ‘The Great Chamar Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar Gram, Gadkauli’ at the entrance of the village and the Thakurs had objected to this idea.

After remaining at large for almost two weeks, Chandrashekhar was seen addressing a huge gathering of Dalit protesters under the banner of Bheem Army at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar.

The permission to hold a rally at Jantar Mantar had been denied, still the Bheem Army went ahead with its plan. Nearly 5,000 people participated in the protest.

The protestors demanded action against those who attacked Dalits during May 5 and May 9 clashes. They also demanded compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the affected families.

Dalits demand the FIR against Chandrashekhar and other activists to be withdrawn.

Additionally they demand a judicial probe into Saharanpur clashes.