If you have seen the news lately, you must have heard the name Chandra Shekhar Azad at least once. Some people have been acquitted with the figure through the CAA protests, but some remain under the shadows as to who he is.
Here is a brief of everything you need to know about the man.
Who Is Chandra Shekhar Azad?
A follower of BR Ambedkar, Azad is the co-founder and chief of Bhim Army. The Bhim Army is an organisation which works for the upliftment of people belonging to the Dalit community. The organisation runs free schools for Dalits in Western Uttar Pradesh.
Azad became prominent as a Dalit leader after he had installed a board outside his village which read — "The Great Chamars of Ghadkhauli Welcome You."
In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Bhim Army chief had said that he would challenge the Prime Minister by contesting the election from Varanasi. Though he later stepped down to keep the Dalit voter bank intact, it brought focus to his work.
Chandrashekhar Azad has often discussed his childhood and discrimination against the Dalit community. He has also openly talked about how Dalit students were not allowed to take front benches in the classrooms or drink water from a hand-pump before the students belonging to the upper-class community.
His contributions to the Dalit community have been widely recognized and put him on the map.
Why Was He Recently Jailed?
Azad's outfit had organised a march from Jama Masjid to Jantar Mantar against the amended citizenship act on December 20, without police permission. He was sent to judicial custody on December 21.
On the evening of his detainment, after security personnel tried to detain him during the march, he surfaced inside the mosque. He had given the Delhi police a slip to reach the mosque. He came outside Jama Masjid early Saturday and was detained. He was arrested later, the police said.
After being detained, Chandrashekhar Azad was kept at the Crime Branch office in Chanakyapuri since he said he was unwell. He was later handed over to the central district police, they added. The police suspected that Azad instigated the crowd which turned violent near Delhi Gate and burnt a car.
On the day of his arrest, Azad still urged his supporters to carry on the protest against the contentious citizenship law peacefully.
Why Did He Get Bail?
Last Wednesday, a Delhi court granted bail to Azad, who was accused of inciting people during the anti-CAA protest at Jama Masjid. The court also restrained Azad from visiting Delhi for four weeks and directed him not to hold any dharna till the elections in the national capital.
Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau had granted the relief to Azad on furnishing a bail bond of Rs 25,000. While granting bail to Azad on Wednesday, the judge recited Rabindranath Tagore's famous poem 'Where the Mind is Without Fear' and said citizens have a fundamental right to peaceful protest which cannot be curtailed by the state.
"I am reminded of our reverend patriotic poet Rabindranath Tagore who is most relevant today. He during the colonial era in early 1900s when British followed the policy of Divide and Rule, visualised a nation where there is no fear in the minds people and education is attained by all; people are enlightened and do not create walls of discrimination," she had said.
Hearing Azad’s bail application Tuesday, Judge Lau came down heavily on the public prosecutor, who had opposed the hearing submitting that Azad incited violence through his social media posts. After some reluctance to share the posts with Azad’s lawyer Mehmood Pracha, the public prosecutor read out some of them. The court, however, noted that these posts merely called for protests and dharna against the CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) near Jama Masjid and that there was nothing violent about them.
“Where is the violence? What is wrong with any of these posts? Who says you cannot protest? Have you read the constitution?” Lau asked the lawyer. “You are behaving as if Jama Masjid is Pakistan. Even if it was Pakistan, you can go there and protest. Pakistan was a part of undivided India,” she added.
When asked about evidence of violence by Azad, the public prosecutor claimed that there was drone footage of Azad giving inflammatory speeches. This was rebutted by Pracha, who told the court that Azad merely read the Constitution and spoke against the CAA and the NRC. The court then adjourned the hearing for Wednesday, giving time to the public prosecutor to submit the FIRs previously registered against Azad by the UP Police.
Chandrashekhar Azad is one of many of those who have been detained or arrested during the protests, under the false allegations of inciting violence of any sort. The bail of Azad and the comments of the Judge bring some hope into the current failing system of police security and protection.