India: Chandrashekhar Azad—The man in the blue scarf

June 9, 2017

Chandrashekhar Azad, founder of Bhim Army. He was arrested on Thursday for spearheading protests in Saharanpur. Photo: HT

The blue scarf is a constant. Draped casually around the neck, it makes an appearance in every photograph and every video. If B.R. Ambedkar made the blue suit the ultimate symbol of identity assertion, Chandrashekhar Azad “Ravan”, the founder of the Bhim Army, clearly wants the scarf to be his calling card.

Azad, who is accused by the police for spearheading the violent protests in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh on 9 May—he organized a Dalit maha panchayat which turned violent— was arrested Thursday at Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh. The arrest came within days of Azad claiming he would surrender if 37 “innocent” Dalits currently behind bars were released.

Azard went underground after the 9 May incident though not before he became the face of Dalit protests in the northern part of the country. He made a brief (and surprise) appearance at the heavily attended Dalit protest in Delhi on 21 May in Jantar Mantar. In a widely circulated video, following the Saharanpur incident, he warns state forces to not mistake Dalit silence as weakness. “Don’t be under the illusion that we are quiet because we are weak. We are quiet because we are following the Constitution,” he says in Hindi.

The rise of the 30-year-old lawyer from Chutmalpur, a small town situated around 20km from Saharanpur, may seem meteoric to some but for those who have been following his career with interest, it was only a matter of time.



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