09, Apr 2018 | Sushmita
Dalit Rights Activist Chandrashekhar Azaad “Ravan” has started a staggered hunger strike at Saharanpur District Jail demanding amnesty for those facing cases for participating in Bharat Bandh, an all India strike of Dalit and progressive groups on April 2, 2018. Azad, who has been incarcerated since June 2017 on seemingly fabricated criminal cases as well as under the draconian National Security Act (NSA) has started by foregoing one meal a day and will keep increasing the intensity of his hunger strike if his demands are not met.
The Bandh was called against the Supreme Court order of March 20 diluting the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 by the bench of U.U. Lalit and A.K. Goyal. The court order says that the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act, 1989 is being “misused” and lays down procedures which will make it difficult for vulnerable communities to lodge cases against people in powerful positions such as government officials.
The protests organised to oppose the dilution and weakening of the order, saw more police and right wing violence inflicted on Dalit groups and individuals. More than 11 people were reportedly killed and several injured in protests that took place in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh during the strike.
Sanjeev Mathur, the convener of Bhim Army defense committee explained that Azad has been skipping one meal a day since Saturday, April 7 and and that he will give up both food and water if the outfits demands weren’t met. The demands included the withdrawal of the FIRs against all the Dalit protesters across India and compensation for the family members of people who lost their lives.
Bhim Army president, Vinay Ratan Singh, speaking at a meeting at the Press Club, New Delhi said “We are constantly being harassed and Dalit activists are being detained and assaulted across North India by the police as well as private citizens. Teachers in the Bhim Army’s schools are being forced to give bonds of good conduct under Section 107 of the Criminal Procedure Code,”
He demanded a judicial probe into the attacks on the peaceful protesters on April 2, and an end to continuous harassment. “We will test the government’s resolve to oppress us by protesting with black bands on Sansad Marg and courting arrest at social justice minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot’s residence on April 18”. He added,”We Ambedkarites don’t want a civil war. Even if you shoot 10,000 of us, we won’t resist. We call upon all Dalit, Adivasi, Other Backward Class (OBC), Muslim organisations and others interested in improving the country, to join us.”
Several other progressive and Ambedkarite groups present at the meeting alleged that many individuals were being framed in false cases after the strike as the goons who initiated the violence during the protests roam around with impunity.
Shriram Hiteshi, an 85-year-old educationist from Jatwada in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, has been booked in two FIRs at two police stations. “I can’t walk much, so I rode a scooter to hand over a memorandum to the collector. After the FIRs, the young men have fled. I won’t,” Hiteshi said. The FIR includes sections on grievous offences such as attempt to murder and offences under nine other penal code sections along with Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984, and the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1932.