The author is a Lucknow-based independent journalist with over 25 years experience in media - print, television and digital. He started his career with The Pioneer, working later with The Times of India, Newstime, Hyderabad and Tehelka. He also worked with Zee News and ETV (UP). He later founded Newstrack.com, and is Bureau Chief of Parliamentarian, Uttar Pradesh
Kamal Wallia is a Graduate in English and a polytechnic diploma holder. He was working as Canteen Clerk at ITC Saharanpur. Recently, he was sacked from there after his name figured in the FIR on the Saharanpur riots. His father Beer Singh expired in 1984. He draws inspiration from his mother KantiWallia and graduate wife Kajal to continue as a second-in-command in Bhim Army even after losing his job.
What is the ideology of the Bhim Army? Why was it launched when BSP is already fighting for Dalit rights?
Even after Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambdekar and Kanshi Ramji fighting for so many years for the rights of Dalits, there was no change in the condition of the community members. Our plight continued. We are still being treated as ‘untouchables’. Social discrimination at all level and increasing attacks on Dalits in Uttar Pradesh forced us to launch a new social movement and awakening in the form of Bhim Army. We are using education and confrontation as combined tools to combat caste oppression and improve the socio-economic conditions of our brethren.
WDoes your outfit too have political ambitions or is this just another Dalit uprising?
No. We are strictly a social organisation engaged in awakening our community members to fight against caste discrimination and restore their pride. Going by the recent developments in the aftermath of the Saharanpur riots, a final decision on the issue willbe taken by our Chief Chandrsekahar Azad ‘Ravan’, once he is out of jail. We don’t call it another Dalit uprising either. The Bhim Army is only fighting for the Constitutional rights of Dalits. You may say that our approach to this fight is a bit revolutionary, as we no longer take things lying down.
The Bhim Army is often accused of adopting violent means and is squarely blamed for triggering the Saharanpur riots?
Baba Saheb Dr Ambdekar and Manyavar Kanshi Ram struggled for decades but failed to get Dalits their dues even after jumping into the political fray through Republican Party of India and Bahujan Samaj Party. After Kanshi Ram left, the BahujanSamaj Mission went into wrong hands. We the activists of Bhim Army have taken up the work left by Dr Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram. If attacks and atrocities against Dalits are justified then how can our retaliation be unjustified?
What is Bhim Army’s equation with the BSP and Mayawati?
We are staunch Ambedka rites and followers of Kanshi Ramji. We have been supporting the BSP all through. But after Kanshi Ram, Mayawati sold their mission to ‘Manuwadis’ to grab power. If she were working for the welfare and uplift of Dalits then where was the need for launching Bhim Army? We do not have any political ambitions like her. She grabbed power for four times but she did nothing for the community members except filling her own coffers. We are poles apart.
Dalits are also part of Hindu society and follow the same religion. Then why you call your selves Chamars? Isn’t the Bhim itself Army promoting casteism?
Let me make this very clear that we are not part of Hindu society. We don’t worship Hindu Gods. The Bhim Army propagates atheism. At best, we are close to Buddhism. We solemniseour marriages by Buddhist rituals. We have also planned mass conversion to Buddhism if attacks and atrocities against Dalits do not stop immediately. Conversions have already taken place at many places across Uttar Pradesh silently, beyond media glare.
Who are your tormentors – the upper castes?
No. We have no fight with upper castes only. Our fight is not against a particular caste but against all those who have falsely imposed the centuries-old caste system. Why scavenging should be done only by lower castes? Why can’t a Dalit become a priest? The world is changing, and so is the social system. We have to adopt those changes or this confrontation will continue.