Home » Politics » Who are Bhim Sena’s political masters? Saharanpur violence bares complex web

Who are Bhim Sena’s political masters? Saharanpur violence bares complex web

Atul Chandra | Updated on: 27 May 2017, 15:18 IST
(Arya Sharma/Catch News)

As purported intelligence reports spoke of collusion between the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Bhim Army, an emerging Dalit outfit, BSP supremo Mayawati was quick to rebut the charge.

According to her, the group, which claims to fight for the rights of the community and does not shy away from violence, is being supported by the BJP.

A highly placed officer at the police headquarters, who ought to have a copy of the intelligence report in normal course, has also stated categorically that “there is no such report.”

The statement indirectly absolves BSP of the charge that her party is funding the Bhim Army, whose main agenda has mostly been to educate members of the Dalit community and fight oppression.

The recent violence

Saharanpur, which is the base of the Bhim Army, was recently engulfed by violent clashes between the two communities which left two persons dead, over a dozen injured and several houses gutted.

Until the clash over Ambedkar’s statue, most confrontations between Thakurs and the Bhim Army have been resolved by the intervention of district administration.

Who supports Bhim Army?

An officer posted in Saharanpur claims that after its formation in 2015, the Bhim Army was “supported” by former BSP MLA from Saharanpur, Ravinder Kumar Molhu. After a while, Congress’ Imran Masood and later, the Samajwadi Party also began to help the fledgling group.

Mayawati’s charge that government’s inaction against the group resorting to violence proves that it was being propped by the BJP found support from the officer, who said that the district administration did nothing to arrest Chandrashekhar Azad 'Ravan', the Bhim Army founder, when he appeared at Jantar Mantar.

Did they alert their Delhi counterparts, he asked.

A political tangle

These questions are borne from the roles SP and BSP leaders played in the recent clashes.

Former SP minister Rajendra Singh Rana’s son was booked for his provocative Facebook post asking Thakurs to gather in Shabbirpur village. But even though the police threatened to arrest him, Rana could not be nabbed.

Rana also demanded arrest of Molhu, the head of the Shabbirpur village, who allegedly played a role in getting the loudspeakers blaring music during the Maharana Pratap Jayanti event silenced when the celebratory procession of Thakurs had to pass through the village. An FIR was registered against Molhu for being present at Ramnagar, the site of trouble.

Interestingly, Shadan Masood, son of former Congress MP and Union minister Rasheed Masood, defended Molhu at a press conference. 

Masood, in turn, blamed Raghav Lakhanpal, the BJP MP from Saharanpur for disturbing the peace. Lakhanpal had gone on a rampage after the clash and attacked the district police chief’s residence. “His acts were recorded on camera and action should be taken against him,” Masood said.

The Dalit Army

According to an estimate, there are 7.64 lakh Dalits in Saharanpur, with Jatavs in a big majority. Traditionally though, Jatavs are Mayawati’s supporters. The numbers are large enough to make every party interested in them.

In all, Hindus account for 56.74% of the population and Rajputs are in the majority.

But despite the sizeable presence of Jatav votes and the Bhim Army, BSP could not win a single seat from Saharanpur during the 2017 assembly elections, which had once been its stronghold.

Even so, the BJP also has a reason to be worried when it comes to Saharanpur, where Muslims largely dominate the population.

That Congress’ Masood Akhtar won the seat in 2017 must also have the BJP disappointed. Adding to that worry is the Bhim Army’s openness to the idea of Dalit-Muslim unity.

First published: 27 May 2017, 15:18 IST