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Assassination attempt on Dalit leader: Chandrashekhar Azad should get security

By Bharat Dogra 

Following an assassination attempt last week, security concerns of Chandrashekhar Azad, a dalit leader of growing popularity, have increased further. On July 1 he stated that there could be a larger plot by powerful forces to kill him. He also demanded a judicial inquiry to probe the attempt on his life. (‘Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad demands judicial probe, alleges larger conspiracy to eliminate him’, The Hindu, July 1).
Some arrests relating to the assassination attempt are already reported to have been made at the time of writing.
On June 28 Chandrashekhar had gone to attend a funerary ritual in Deoband ( Western Uttar Pradesh) following the death of a family member of a supporter. It was while returning from here that several shots were fired at him. His vehicle was hit more than once and one bullet caused an injury on his back. It was a close escape.
Later he issued a peace appeal from hospital bed. He also stated that he has received the gift of a second life and will continue to work for protecting the rights of dalits and oppressed sections of society. He drew attention to the widespread breakdown of law and order in the state and in particular drew attention to the oppressed sections suffering the most in this situation. He said that the attempt on his life is not taken seriously by those who are used to attacks being made routinely on oppressed sections particularly the dalits. He also stated firmly that despite such attacks including the assassination attempt on him, despite all provocations, he and his comrades are determined to follow the constitutional path for protecting and asserting their rights and are determined to continue on this path till they succeed.
Son of a school headmaster and belonging to a village in Saharanpur district (Western Uttar Pradesh), Chandrashekhar came to the limelight for his assertive role in protecting the rights and dignity of dalits. He was frequently outspoken and took positions which did not necessarily go well with widely prevailing cultural norms.
He formed the Bhim Army which has been taking a strong position against any oppression targeting dalits. At a later stage he formed the Azad Samaj Party which may not have done well in elections initially but is reported to be picking up strength, particularly in Western Uttar Pradesh. Chandrahekhar has repeatedly asserted his commitment to carry forwards the ideas and tasks of Baba Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram.
Following the assassination attempt Chandrashekhar and his supporters have disclosed that twice they have made official requests to the authorities for security cover to be provided but this has not been accepted, and an application for keeping licensed firearms in view of the threats to him has also not accepted for quite some time, it has been alleged.
Chendrashekhar has also alleged that those who attacked him have protection at high levels. Incidentally the President of the Samajwadi Party, Alkhilesh Yadav, also said that Chadrashekhar was attacked by “criminals protected by those in power.”
Clearly in view of a history of several hostile actions against him, culminating in the assassination attempt of June 28; also keeping in view his status as an opposition political leader and a leading dalit activist, Chandrashekhar should be provided official security cover as has been already demanded more than once by him. In addition, of course, there should be wider steps for protecting the security and dignity of all oppressed sections in the state as well as of the various activists who have been struggling for this in difficult and risky situations.
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The writer is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, When the Two Streams Met and A Day in 2071

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