Ambedkarite group Bhim Army’s chief Chandrashekhar Azad on Friday tweeted that the Mumbai Police have arrested him from Chaityabhoomi in the city’s Dadar area. It is a memorial to BR Ambedkar, who was cremated there on December 6, 1956, and an important pilgrimage centre for Ambedkarites and Buddhists.
Earlier in the evening, Azad had accused the police of detaining him and his supporters in a hotel in the city’s Malad area, criticising the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Maharashtra for holding them captive without cause.
Azad was allegedly detained after he declared he would continue with the Bhim Army’s plan to conduct a rally in Jambori Maidan in the city’s Worli locality on Saturday despite not receiving permission from the police for the event. He shared clips of police personnel near the hotel on his social media account, and released a video demanding to know the reason for his alleged detention. “I wanted to speak to my supporters,” Azad said in the video. “I want to known which law I violated. I will continue my work undeterred.”
“Have the teachings of the Manusmriti become the new law in the country, where Dalits have no rights and are not even allowed to talk,” he tweeted, tagging Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. “But remember that we are prepared to protect the Constitution, no matter what the sacrifice.”
In a video from the hotel, the Bhim Army chief alleged that the police personnel were sent to arrest him. “Is [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi bent on eliminating constitutional rights?” Azad tweeted. “Is there any freedom to speak in the country? We will not tolerate attacks on the Constitution. You can arrest me, but we will not be stopped.”
The incident comes days ahead of the first anniversary of the Koregaon-Bhima caste violence. The Maharashtra administration has ordered the Pune Police to be on alert to avoid any incidents of violence, PTI reported.
On September 13, Azad was released from a prison in Uttar Pradesh after nearly a year of preventive detention under the National Security Act. The state government had accused the Bhim Army of instigating inter-caste violence in Saharanpur district in 2017.
On New Year’s Day each year, lakhs of Ambedkarites from across the state visit the village near Pune to commemorate a 19th century British victory over the Brahmin Peshwa-ruled Maratha empire. However, this year violence broke out. Most of the videos showed people with saffron flags and clothes attacking those with Ambedkarite blue flags.