Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh:
Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad – a fierce critic of the Uttar Pradesh government over the alleged gang rape and torture of a Dalit woman in Hathras last month, and its track record in protecting people from marginalised communities – tweeted late Sunday to say that vehicles belonging to his party had been shot at in the state’s Bulandshahr district.
The convoy, Mr Azad said, had been fired upon while its members were campaigning for Assembly by-polls that have been scheduled for November 3. At this time it is unclear if Mr Azad, who was scheduled to address a rally in the district today, was travelling in the convoy while it was shot at.
“Opposition parties have been terrified of our candidate in Bulandshahr elections and today’s rally worried them, due to which my convoy was fired at in a cowardly manner. This shows their desperation… they want the atmosphere to be toxic but we will not let this happen,” Chandrashekhar Azad tweeted.
बुलन्दशहर के चुनाव में हमारे प्रत्याशी उतारने से विपक्षी पार्टीयां घबरा गई है और आज की रैली ने इनकी नींद उड़ा दी है जिसकी वजह से अभी कायरतापूर्ण तरीके से मेरे काफिले पर गोलियां चलाई गई है। यह इनकी हार की हताशा को दिखाता है ये चाहते है कि माहौल खराब हो लेकिन हम ऐसा नही होने देंगे।
— Chandra Shekhar Aazad (@BhimArmyChief) October 25, 2020
The Bihar state elections (which begin Wednesday) and next month’s by-polls in UP (for seven seats, including the Bulandshahr one) mark the influential Dalit leader’s entry into electoral politics.
Mr Azad has named Haji Yamin as his party’s candidate for the Bulandshahr bypoll and his Azad Samaj Party will contest as many as 30 seats in Bihar – under the Progressive Democratic Alliance (PDA) banner, which will be led by the Jan Adhikar Party of Rajesh Ranjan, alias Pappu Yadav.
Earlier this month UP Police filed cases against Chandrashekhar Azad and hundreds of others for violating a ban on large gatherings during the Covid pandemic.
Mr Azad was on his way to Hathras to visit the family of the 20-year-old Dalit woman whose alleged gang rape – by four men from the so-called “upper castes” – has prompted nationwide outrage.
The Bhim Army chief, also known as “Raavan”, held a massive protest after he was stopped, twice, by the police. Visuals showed him standing on a truck and addressing a huge crowd. Following that protest Mr Azad was finally allowed to meet the woman’s family.
Days before Mr Azad’s show of strength on the road to Hathras he attended a protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, where he demanded answers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the resignation of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
The Bulandshahr bypoll was necessitated by the death of the incumbent MLA – the BJP’s Virendra Singh Sirohi – in March this year. Mr Azad’s candidate will face Mr Sirohi’s wife, Usha Sirohi (contesting on a BJP ticket), the Congress’s Sushil Chaudhri.