The Curious Case of Chandrashekhar Ravan and Bhim Army

Where did he come from and how does he keep getting away with it?

I have a question for you: do you know who is Chandrashekhar Ravan? Well if you are a politically aware individual from north India, most probably you do. But since how long have you known him? can you recall when was the first time you heard about him? and more importantly how well do you think you know him?

Chandrashekhar Ravan and his organization Bhim army have been in the limelight of Hindi-belt politics for the past few years. Despite his unremarkable track record in elections, the media just can’t seem to get enough of him.


Reportedly, Chandrashekhar co-founded the Bhim Army or the Bhim Army Bharat Ekta Mission along with Vinay Ratan Singh in 2014 or 2015, depending on which report you to read. But the Bhim army first earned its notoriety through Saharanpur clashes in the summer of 2017. Despite being three years old at that point, it was still an unregistered organization by all accounts. Now Mr Ravan is supposed to be a lawyer by qualification at least even if not by profession, and lawyers are supposed to know the importance of paperwork and getting organizations registered, what took him so long then? So we can not be sure if it was founded in 2014, or ‘15, or ‘16 even. But what we can be sure of is that those caste clashes which took place on 7 May 2017 happened only after BJP had come to power in the Uttar Pradesh state assembly.

After the clashes of 7th May newspapers were quick to introduce the movement of bhim army to the rest of the country, it got both positive and negative coverage at the same time which created a picture of a Dalit antihero in the mind of people. It claimed to have 20,000 followers in the Saharanpur region, which isn’t unbelievable given the population size of Uttar Pradesh and the fact that Saharanpur has a 20% Dalit population. But what was very difficult to believe is that they run free-of-cost pathshala (schools) for children from the community. The first such pathshala was set up at Fatehpur Bhado village in Saharanpur in 2015. And as of the time of the report, they were running more than 350 such schools in western Uttar Pradesh, in Saharanpur, Meerut, Shamli, and Muzaffarnagar. Now as a son of a schoolteacher himself, Chandrashekhar must know that even the most bare-bones basic low-budget school requires teachers to be paid at least. where was this organization getting its funding from to run 350 such schools? And how were they running these schools without being registered? Wouldn’t their donors desire at least a tax exemption at least for donating to a non-profit? And how could they gather so much in donations if they were practically unknown before those clashes?

This report here states that the funds to run these schools were arranged by collecting Rs 10 from every family, which would be put in the donation box of every Ravi Das temple. Now, how many Ravidas temples are there and how many visits do they get daily, and how many of those visitors donate 10 rupees or above? gotta say the mechanism doesn’t require much paperwork and who knows where money might be coming from.

The Launch from Saharanpur

In the summer of 2017, violent clashes broke out between Dalit and Thakur communities in Saharanpur, the home district of Chandrashekhar Ravan. Soon after the clashes took place, UP police dropped an intelligence report which reportedly states that Bahujan Samaj Party is giving tacit support to Bhim Army, It also emphasises that BSP national vice-president and Mayawati’s brother Anand Kumar funds this organisation. The report also states that the Bhim Army has the support of the CPIM (M-L). Similarly, Shayan Masood, grandson of Rashid Masood (former minister and MP) is also inclined toward this organization. Times of India claimed to have a copy of this report but never uploaded it on their website or gave us the link to it in case it was directly available on a govt portal. Now that should make these reports about a secret report a bit doubtful at least. However, I have not come across any statement by the UP govt or UP police dismissing any of these claims about the report. If the Times of India and other such portals were indeed lying about the report, the Uttar Pradesh government never sued them for it or denied those claims at the very least.

But the very next day this report came out BSP Chief Mayawati denied the claim of its involvement with the Bhim Army, dismissing the purported intelligence report, she instead accused the BJP of trying to politically neutralize her. She argued that leaders of the Bhim Army engaged in violence but were still not being arrested by the police, thereby indicating the ruling party’s tacit support for the group. To her credit, at the time of that report, Chandrashekhar was still on the run from the police, which only strengthened her point.

And if that wasn’t enough, Bhim Army also denied having any ties with BSP that very same day. In fact, they went on to criticize her for her absence on the ground to provide support to the dalit community at the time of such clashes.
According to TOI’s report:

As the Saharanpur continues to be in grip of violence, the Bhim Army is posing a challenge to the state police as despite visit by the then principal secretary (home) Debashish Panda and DGP Sulkhan Singh, situation could not be controlled.

This gives us the impression that UP police were taking Bhim Army as a serious threat.

After those violent events in Saharanpur, Non-Bailable warrants had been issued against at least 10 people involved in those clashes. UP Police was looking for Chandrashekhar who went into hiding around the 9th of May 2017. Azad claimed he would surrender if 37 “innocent” Dalits currently behind bars were released but got no response from the UP govt on this demand. But then on May 21 he suddenly reappeared at Jantar Mantar in Delhi to demonstrate against the Govt right there in Delhi, How can a Man on the run from police get into the spotlight at the centerstage of the National Capital while amassing a crowd of tens of thousands just like that?

After the rally, Chandrashekhar went to a court in Delhi to surrender. But he was told that he had to surrender in Saharanpur, where the cases had been registered. Why did he not return to Saharanpur then?

It took UP Police about a month after the incident to finally arrest him in June when their Special Task Force found him in Dalhousie, Himachal. To Ravan’s Peril, he was caught due to his girlfriend’s complicity with UP Police(by the way, his election affidavit says he is a married man). The Special Task Force formed by UP police to catch Ravan did not even inform Himachal Police about this operation before acting on other states’ jurisdictional territory. But something noteworthy that stood out to me was this excerpt from UP Congress’s leader in Saharanpur, Imran Masood’s statement:

“…There are photographs that show him standing with the district magistrate and the SSP when the incident had took place”

Now I don’t know about Mr Masood, but if those photographs are real, to me they would not indicate his innocence, but rather his complicity with the administration.

Anyway, despite the setback of his arrest at a such nascent stage, Bhim Army was still rapidly expanding across India. Soon after his arrest, the Bhim army’s Maharashtra unit was formed for outreach. They even created a band to campaign for his release. Finally, on 2nd November, which is about 4-5 months after his arrest, Allahabad High Court granted Ravan bail in the Saharanpur case. Apparently, they could not prove any allegations they threw on him, one has to wonder whatever happened to that bombastic intelligence report they were talking about. But the story did not end there, UP govt slapped National Security Act(colloquially RaSuKa) on him hours after he was granted bail. A suspect can be kept in jail for 12 months without any charge under the NSA. This is the most vital and critical provision of this whole act. And no, this law is not unconstitutional. The foundation of justification for preventive detention laws such as NSA is embedded within the constitution’s article 22(3) and the irony here is that it was defended by Ravan’s own idol Ambedkar himself.

For the next few months, Ravan’s defenders kept appealing for his release and govt kept extending his detention but by law, they only had a year at most. And surprisingly they released him about 2 months before the completion of that term in September 2018. And what was the reason given by them for it?

Decision was taken on sympathetic grounds taking into consideration the representations by Mr. Chandrashekhar’s mother and the “current situation.”

It’s strange they can’t muster the same level of sympathy for many other people they have sent to jail under the NSA or other such preventive detention laws.

Aftermath of Saharanpur

The entire saga of Chandrashekhar’s arrest had two effects in the eyes of voters. On left, his persecution lead to him achieving a martyr status, quickly displacing other dalit leaders like Mayawati and Paswan to become the new dalit star on a national level. On the right side of the filter bubble, people were quickly made to forget all everything about the case and move on to the next controversial issue, the select few who did pay attention to him despite best attempts by BJP-affiliated online influence network to bury it only saw this as yet another case of police incompetence and political appeasement by BJP.

The first thing that Chandrashekhar did after getting out of jail was to swear an oath to root out the BJP from power in the 2019 elections. Even after his release, BSP chief Mayawati still asserted that her party had no truck with the Bhim army.

For some reason though, he did not participate in the 2019 general elections, Chandrashekhar established his Azad Samaj Party a year later to that in March 2020. He chose the colour blue for his party branding and merchandise same as BSP which will cause even more confusion among Dalit voters.

Chandrashekhar has not published any manifesto or agenda of his party as to what is his action plan for the upliftment of Dalits. So far, he is only talking about advancing Kanshi Ram’s mission but that doesn’t help much because Kanshi Ram himself was mostly a political opportunist with no specific policy plan to put forward, curiously his idol Kanshi Ram had no qualms about allying with BJP when it served his interests. He took part in the 2022 UP state assembly election where his party won zero seats and he lost his deposit by contesting against CM Adityanath on the Gorakhpur seat. Now one must ask, why did a man who shot to popularity through a controversial incident that happened in Saharanpur, decided to contest the election from Gorakhpur? Any electoral pundit worth his salt will tell you that a new candidate’s safe bet is always his own town, much more so when that hometown brought you to the national limelight. Then why go out of your way to contest in a constituency on which the sitting CM has maintained a strong grasp for decades? Does he really want to win or is he only there for attention? or maybe he is just there to cut votes.

More Suspicious Incidents involving Bhim Army

Since the episode of Saharanpur and the massive wave of sympathy that Chandrashekhar and his organization receive, the Bhim army has only grown aggressive in its activities considerably more so than BSP. Cases of caste-motivated violence are out there to see but only if liberal media stopped turning its blind eye to it. Not only they have dipped their toes into lynchingmurderthreateningkidnappingattacking hospital staff, incitement of violence, and calls to genocide. All to the extent that even Mayawati pointed out their tendency for violence.

In 2020, a series of highly abusive posts from Azad’s verified Twitter handle directed at women came to public attention, the status of that case and the actions taken by the administration on that matter are still unknown. And in 2021, Attorney General which is appointed by the BJP Govt. didn’t give consent to prosecute Chandrasekhar.

Similarly in June 2021, Mohd Jubair, The Wire, and 5 others were booked by UP Police for allegedly propagating a piece of fake news but Chandrashekhar Rawan was curiously spared for some reason despite sharing the same piece of news. He hasn’t even deleted that tweet till today.

In late 2021, A dalit researcher in Kerala accused her university of casteism for delaying her thesis acceptance. Bheem army(which is not a native organization to Kerala) stood in solidarity with her for days as she fasted for her demands, but then later on her pro-RSS stance popped to light.

(This is an opinion piece published on the CRT page and the views expressed are the author’s own. NEO POLITICO neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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