Chandrashekhar Azad, the fiery Dalit activist from Uttar Pradesh shot to prominence in 2017 when he was jailed for over a year for a Thakur-Dalit clash in Saharanpur. Called ‘Ravan’ by his followers, in a subaltern challenge to BJP’s Ram, Azad famously put up a signboard in his village that read, ‘The Great Chamars of Dhadkhauli Welcome You’.The 32-year-old, who leads the Bhim Army, is seen as one of the faces of an emerging radical Bahujan movement. With his twirled moustache, iconic dark blue scarf, and Enfield Bullet, Azad makes a statement wherever he goes, and it’s obvious he was the inspiration behind the character of Nishad in the recent Bollywood film, Article 15.He is in jail again, this time in Delhi, over protests against the demolition of Ravidas Mandir, a temple for poet-saint Ravidas of the 16th century who has a large Dalit following. He met The Hindu when he was in Karnataka a few days before his arrest. Excerpts:The demolition of the Ravidas Mandir has created a new flashpoint between Dalits and the Centre. But the government says it was the Supreme Court that ordered the demolition for violating zoning norms?It was the Delhi Development Authority that sought to demolish the temple, not the Supreme Court. The government used the court to achieve its end. The issue finally boils down to respecting Bahujan cultural symbols. PM Narendra Modi visited Ravidas Mandir in Varanasi earlier this year and said he was a devotee of Sant Ravidas. Now he must take the lead in restoring the temple or his hypocrisy will be exposed. We will launch a nationwide protest demanding its restoration on the same spot.The recent Bollywood film, Article 15, had a character modelled on you. Did you see the film? There has been criticism that instead of telling the story of caste oppression from the perspective of the Dalit, the movie did it from the perspective of a Brahmin officer. What is your take on this?I have not seen the film. But the opposition to the film by the upper castes and the right wing is telling of how the entire system works against Dalits. Maybe it is not time to tell the story from a Dalit perspective in the mainstream. Maybe the film wouldn’t have released at all if that were the case. But I have heard of recent films in the South with Dalit protagonists. I feel the progressives among the upper castes need to come forward to question caste hierarchy. But it is time we lead our struggles and tell our stories and those from other castes need to support us.Many are critical of the style of Bhim Army, though not its substance. They argue that violence only begets more violence. What is your take?We have the right to fight for our rights and don’t have to tolerate any oppression. It is time our voices rang louder on the streets. Bhim Army is Ambedkarite in its outlook — Educate, Organise and Agitate. We believe nothing comes without struggle and we are ready for any sacrifice. We are not attacking anyone, but if someone comes into our homes and hits us, we will not hesitate to retaliate in self-defence. When the system is so geared up against us, what else can we do? I was blamed for the violence in Saharanpur and arrested, but nobody speaks of the violence wrecked on us. The state brands Dalits who raise their voice as Naxals, as we have seen in Bhima Koregaon, and Muslims as terrorists.Does the rise of radical Dalit leaders and their large followings among the youth indicate the failure of mainstream Dalit politics?Mainstream Dalit parties have failed repeatedly. A student who has all the resources but fails exams repeatedly cannot claim to be a brilliant student. Most of our politicians today are crorepatis; they come from dynasties that don’t know our problems. We cannot let their failure fail the movement. These parties are severely compromised on the ideological front, including in allying with a brahminical party like the BJP. As these leaders remain stuck in AC rooms, the youngsters fight on the streets, giving rise to new leaders and a militant movement.The BJP now seeks to claim the legacy of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, even to defend the revoking of Article 370 in J&K. The BSP has supported the move. How do you view the government’s handling of Dalit issues?Brahminism is in the DNA of the BJP and its ideological mentor, the RSS. This seeks to impose the Manusmriti, which doesn’t allot any power to Shudras and Dalits. While we can become the President of India, we still cannot enter a temple. The social forces that this regime has emboldened, giving them impunity, have translated into increased atrocities against minorities, Dalits and tribals. Dalits are the biggest targets of lynchings, even more than Muslims.On Kashmir, the future of Dalits cannot be seen in isolation. It is linked with the aspirations of Kashmiris. It is better if BJP stops trying to appropriate Ambedkar as it is a legacy they can never claim and it only exposes their hypocrisy.RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has called for an open debate on reservations.The RSS-BJP has always been anti-reservation and their agenda is to subvert reservation. By giving reservation to the poor among upper castes, they have done exactly that. Reservation has always been about correcting social and educational backwardness, not economic. This government has been keen on disinvestment of PSUs, which essentially hits Dalits, as there is no reservation in the private sector. Mohan Bhagwat’s statement only reflects the anti-Dalit mindset of the RSS-BJP. We are ready for a debate on reservation with Mohan Bhagwat. Let us debate on what we have really got from reservation in the last seven decades. Even today 54% of Dalits don’t own any land. We will tell what we have gained and what we have lost because of caste in this society.The Opposition has failed to defeat BJP electorally, despite the Mahagathbandhan of the SP-BSP in UP. How can you counter the BJP, even as many aspirational Shudra and Dalit classes cosy up to the party?The only way to fight BJP is to take to the streets. They may have a majority in Parliament but we [Bahujans] have a majority on the streets. All pro-Constitution forces need to unite for this fight. Though we may have failed once, that should not deter us. More than political alliances between parties, we need to mobilise people on the ground. Any truck with the BJP is against the interests of the Bahujan community. We need to expose this and convince people.Was the SP-BSP alliance fraught with contradictions, as in the villages it is the OBCs and Dalits who are often in confrontation with each other? Is an OBC-Dalit alliance practical?We in the Bhim Army believe the Bahujan community includes all oppressed classes — Dalits, Adivasis, Shudras and minorities — and we will work towards bringing these classes together in the villages at a social level. Bahujan unity is the key to countering the larger Manuvad [parties] ruling us today.There has been an argument that the Left and Dalit movements must unite. Do you feel synergising these two mass movements is the way ahead?Bahujan politics is the politics of kamzor log (the weak) and we are ready to support anyone participating in these politics, in a pro-Constitution manner. I believe, while there may be several organisations working independently, we need to come together to fight on common issues, be it various Dalit organisations or even the Left. But enough of us voting others to make them leaders, now we want others to vote for our leadership. Historically, it is time this happened.Bhim Army is in expansion mode. Your success in UP has been organic. Can you replicate it elsewhere?Our success in UP is largely due to the Bhim Shaalas we run, evening and holiday schools in villages and slums where we educate Bahujan youth in English, help them with studies and impart political education to help them cultivate a Bahujan consciousness. Bhim Army runs 1,700 such schools in UP, which has given us a committed cadre. We will soon begin Bhim Shaalas across the country. India is a diverse land and we will factor that in. Bhim Army will be the loudest voice on the streets for Bahujans everywhere.Is Bhim Army on its way to becoming a political party or are you caught between remaining a social movement and entering electoral politics?Bhim Army is not averse to electoral politics, but it is not an organisation that is only political. We will always remain part of the larger Bahujan movement; electoral politics is only one of the means to further the cause. We follow both Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram and believe the Bahujan community, which has a majority in society, must come to power.You had dropped ‘Ravan’ from your name but now it is back?It is the people who lovingly called me Ravan for taking on the BJP. But I realised BJP was trying to polarise the people as supporters of Ram and Ravan in Varanasi when I announced I would contest against Narendra Modi. So, I announced I was dropping Ravan from my name. But now that the elections are over and people like calling me Ravan, it is email@example.com
Imran Khan: ‘Gavaskar is the danger man’The Indian cricket team leaves later this month for Pakistan. An India-Pakistan series elicits more emotional participation on both sides of the border than any other and this time should be no different, the Asian Games notwithstanding. Pakistan’s captain, Imran Khan, fresh from his side’s,Imran Khan: ‘Gavaskar is the danger man’The Indian cricket team leaves later this month for Pakistan. An India-Pakistan series elicits more emotional participation on both sides of the border than any other and this time should be no different, the Asian Games notwithstanding. Pakistan’s captain, Imran Khan, fresh from his side’s victory against Australia was in New Delhi last fortnight for a brief visit during which he was interviewed by Senior Editor S. Venkat Narayan. Excerpts:On how Pakistan will fare against India in the forthcoming series:We played good cricket in England. Ours was a better team but we lost. But against Australia our team clicked very well. In that light, I feel that we are well equipped to beat India. But there are factors involved, like the playing conditions, the wickets and so on. If the wickets are tilted in favour of the batsmen, then India has the chance of saving the series.On how Pakistan cricket came of age:One of Pakistan cricket’s biggest problems has been a lack of Test cricket. People don’t realise it, but it makes a lot of difference. A player may do very well in first class cricket, but when we put him into Test cricket, it takes him some time to get used to it because it is a completely different level of cricket.The Pakistan team has played very few Test matches. Until the recent England tour, some of us played just seven matches in two and half years – which is very little indeed. Besides, we somehow lack Test temperament. When it comes to Test matches, we used to get too tense, we couldn’t play our natural game but just panic. That’s why our performances have been poor.advertisementEven in England, I feel that if we played with them now, we’d beat them easily. It just so happened that we played them at a time when we were just too nervous, too tense and not sure of ourselves: so, we did badly.On Pakistan’s best players in the coming Indo-Pak series:Our batting line-up is very ominous for India. There are players like Zaheer Abbas, now in tremendous form, Mohsin Khan, who is an opening batsman in the mould of Barry Richards, Mansoor Akhtar, a very fine up-and-coming youngster, and then there is Javed Miandad. These are our main batsmen who are going to trouble India a lot.In bowling we’ve got two newcomers whom the Indians haven’t seen before: Jalaluddin and Tahir Naqqash. They have seen Abdul Qadir, but he is now a better bowler.On how the Indian team compares to his:The Indian batting is pretty strong. At the moment they probably look as good as ours, but our bowling has got an edge.On whom Pakistan fears most in the Indian side:Sunil Gavaskar is the danger man. He has got the capacity to stay at the wicket for very long and that keeps the score rate going even though he might not be scoring. Anyone who stays at the wicket long is dangerous.On Gavaskar as a captain:Of all the Indian captains I have seen since the ’70s, he’s the best. He’s aggressive, more aggressive than any other Indian captain I’ve seen. He’s tactically a good captain. He understands the game and on top of it he commands the respect of his team. Maybe, at times he feels his team’s bowling is not good enough for him to win matches; so, he goes for draws. That’s what it appears to be like from the result of the Indian series against England.On Kapil Dev making a good captain in the future:No one ever knows really until one is put in that place. Take Asif Iqbal, for instance. We all thought he would be the best captain Pakistan ever had because he seemed to understand the game, he commanded the respect of the players and he was a good tactician. But once he was made the captain, he actually turned out to be a poor one. So, I don’t think anyone can tell unless someone is actually put in that place.On cricketers’ and other sportsmen’s role in bringing India and Pakistan closer:It must really depend on the spirit in which the game is played. If there is a lot of unpleasantness in the series, or if the crowds feel that there’s been a lot of cheating – as it happened when Pakistan came here last and India went there – then I don’t think it does any good. But if it’s played in the proper spirit. I’m sure it should bring the two countries together.advertisementOn what kind of series it’s going to be:As far as I as a captain am concerned I’m interested in a series that produces results, that is good to watch and that’s entertaining. We in the Pakistan team will do our best to produce a very healthy series. And if it is played properly – as we hope it will be then – it should generate a lot of goodwill and interest in both the countries. When we came here last, the hospitality we were shown in India, if that’s not a sign of goodwill, then I don’t know what is. And that certainly shows to the Pakistanis that there is a lot of good feeling for Pakistan in India.On film stars going crazy about him on his last visit:The secret is that I should get married. It will put an end to all that. I went to as many parties as all the other cricketers of our team did. But because most of them were married their names weren’t linked (to pretty film stars) and mine was.
Cayetano: Senate, Drilon to be blamed for SEA Games mess Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Bloomberg: US would benefit from more, not fewer, immigrants Google Philippines names new country director Magalong: Albayalde also got SUV out of ‘agaw bato’ operation in 2013 PLAY LIST 01:19Magalong: Albayalde also got SUV out of ‘agaw bato’ operation in 201300:50Trending Articles00:50Trending Articles02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games02:11Trump awards medals to Jon Voight, Alison Krauss MANILA, Philippines—De La Salle made sure that there would be a sense of normalcy in the Final Four race of the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament when it faced University of Santo Tomas.ADVERTISEMENT LATEST STORIES Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Colombia protesters vow new strike after talks hit snag Trump tells impeachment jokes at annual turkey pardon event Wintry storm delivers US travel woes before Thanksgiving MOST READ The Lady Spikers’ win, coupled with UP’s loss to Ateneo on Saturday, broke the logjam with the Lady Spikers now in solo second with the Lady Tamaraws holding the third seed.“It was important for us to get this win because it’s not just for our team standing but also for our confidence, we won’t be down that much,” said Cheng, who had 20 points in the win.“We have to be more consistent going forward and I hope that we will play like this throughout the rest of the season. I feel like that the deeper we go into the season the stronger the other teams are getting.”ADVERTISEMENT The Lady Spikers took care of business against University of Santo Tomas, 21-25, 25-23, 25-19, 26-24, Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena that broke the tie for the no.2 seed with a 7-3 record.The win put La Salle in the right track as the elimination round winds down since a loss coul could’ve sent the Lady Spikers to as low as fourth place.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSPalace wants Cayetano’s PHISGOC Foundation probed over corruption chargesSPORTSSingapore latest to raise issue on SEA Games food, logistics“Obviously it’s very important because if we lost this one it would be hard for us to get back up,” said Cheng in Filipino.There was a stretch in the tournament when La Salle, UST, Far Eastern University, and University of the Philippines were either all tied up in the second spot. Change in demeanor turns things around for NU libero Jennifer Nierva Panelo: Duterte ‘angry’ with SEA Games hosting hassles Private companies step in to help SEA Games hosting View comments