Azad, alias Ravan, reached Saharanpur on Thursday evening, members of the Dalit outfit started celebrating by distributing sweets outside the Saharanpur jail.
Azad’s mother, Kamlesh Devi, who broke into tears after hearing about her son’s release, told TOI, “He has suffered a lot. Finally, my prayers have been answered.”
According to a statement from the UP home department, “The decision to release Azad was taken considering the request of his mother who is suffering from ill health.” The tenure of the last NSA slapped on Azad was due to end on November 1 this year. Two of his associates — Shabbirpur village pradhan Shiv Kumar and his son Sonu — will also be released from prison.
Azad’s younger brother, Kamal Kishore, told TOI, “He was reaching out to downtrodden in the Dalit community like a large tree which extends itself to provide shade to people. However, the movement was curtailed by certain forces. I can assure you that his release will mark the beginning of the end of subjugation of Dalit Samaj.”
Azad has been in jail since June 8, 2017 in connection with Saharanpur caste violence. On November 1, 2017 the Allahabad high court had granted him bail, but the UP government had slapped the stringent National Security Act (NSA) on him. The NSA was extended every three months to ensure that the Bhim Army chief stays in jail.
Kamal Walia, Meerut district president of Bhim Army and the outfit’s national working committee member, said, “New life has been infused into the outfit with the news of his release. Our struggle and the struggle of every Dalit who went out of his way to participate in agitations demanding his release has borne fruit. Now, our entire focus will be on the expansion of Bhim Army.”
Asked about the timing of his release, ADG, jails, Chandra Prakash, told TOI, “The order has been issued. He can be released tonight or tomorrow, depending on when the local administration receives the order.”