24, Apr 2018 | Sushmita
Bhim Army National President Vinay Ratan Singh surrendered before the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Saharanpur on Monday, April 23, 2018. Singh, 35 has been accused of involvement in the Saharanpur caste clashes in May 2017. He was remanded to judicial custody, but not before drama and police confusion that has come to be associated with this case.
Social Media Announcement and Press Conference
At about 8am Singh announced his plans to surrender on social media. He also held a press conference where he not only reiterated that he was innocent, but also said that the police were falsely implicating him in the case despite being aware of his innocence. He said that his sister had died just before violence broke out in Saharanpur and Singh was busy with her last rights. The police knew this and implicated him in the case nevertheless.
Singh surrendered before the court at about 1pm where a huge crowd had gathered. District secretary Kamal Singh Walia, national spokesperson Praveen Gautam and others had reached the Allahabad Chief Judicial Magistrate Nirdosh Kumar’s court at around 12 pm. Oddly enough, despite prior information on his surrender, the Saharanpur police played ignorant! Only when he had presented himself before the court, the Sadar Kotwali police and Janakpuri police performed the bare minimum formality of being present in the court.
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Interestingly, on the day that the police had turned up at his doorstep to paste a poster declaring him as an absconder, they had actually chatted with him! The police failed to recognise someone they claimed was a wanted accused and left without arresting Singh. They had to retrace their steps when a video of the chat with the ‘absconder’ surfaced a few hours later.
The police had placed a bounty of Rs 12,000/- for any information leading to Singh’s arrest and yet, even after he openly announced his intention to surrender, various media outlets reported that the police didn’t make any attempts to arrest him! City police commissioner Prabal Pratap Singh, however, said that the police tried to arrest Vinay Ratan but he had surrendered himself by then.
When the Young scare the Old
The establishment appears to be so afraid of emerging youth leaders like Singh and his co-accused Chandrashekhar Azad that they have resorted to any means necessary to incarcerate them and keep them behind bars. Azad had surrendered himself in May, 2017 after he emerged in a massive rally. He has been languishing in prison since then despite getting bail in multiple cases. Infact, when everything else failed he was charged under the draconian provisions of the National Security Act (NSA) just to keep him in jail.
What happened in Saharanpur
During May 2017, anti-Dalit violence broke out in Shabbirpur and Rampur villages when they protested a ‘Shobha Yatra’ initiated by Thakur community members to commemorate Maharana Pratap’s birth anniversary. Dalits had alleged that there was no permission for the said Yatra. In this incident 60 Dalit houses were burnt.
On May 9, 2017 mob violence broke out in Shabbirpur village when the police lathi-charged a group of peaceful protesters who had assembled in Gandhi Maidan under the leadership of Bhim Army. Several people were grievously injured in the attacks. While the violence that followed the unprecedented lathi-charge was of course condemnable, it is important to note that no one was killed or even seriously injured in this violence. This violence has led to a calculated witch hunt against Bhim Army activists across Saharanpur.
Vinay Ratan Singh’s Political Journey
Azad and Vinay Ratan Singh decided to start a school together for Dalit children who didn’t have access to regular schooling. In those days, Vinay was running a computer shop in Saharanpur. Soon they set up the Bhim Pathshala in July 2014 which admitted kids from nearby Dalit settlements and villages and its teacher-volunteers taught for free. At that time, it was a small social experiment, little had they any idea that it was going to turn into a mass movement that will shake the very foundations of deeply castiest, patriarchal society and gain so much popularity.
Around the same time, Azad, Singh along with Kamal Walia and Manjit Singh Natiyal also travelled from village to village to promote the thoughts of Babasaheb Ambedkar. Perhaps it is this promise of radical transformation through constitutional means (for they hold Babasaheb’s constitution in the highest regard) coupled with a groundswell of support that unnerves the state.
In an interview with CJP, Vinay had said,
The country is headed towards darkness. The country has gone back in time by 200-250 years. Our situation today is similar to that of pre-independence times. But, we the followers of Baabsaheb, are in no mood to tolerate that.”