In the wake of the hunger strike by Bheem Army chief Chandrashekhar in Saharanpur jail, Dalits from 22 villages have also demanded withdrawal of cases against those of their community falsely implicated in cases of violence during the Bharat Bandh on 2 April against the alleged dilution of the SC/ST Act in a Supreme Court ruling.

Kamal Singh Walia, district president of the Bheem Army in Sahanapur, said supporters of the Bheem Army are on hunger strike in 22 villages of the district to show their solidarity with their leader who is on hunger strike in jail.

“The health of a few activists deteriorated in Behat town on Wednesday and they have been admitted to hospital,” he said.

Chandrashekhar started his hunger strike in jail to demand withdrawal of “fake” cases against Dalits booked in connection with the violence of 2 April.

Chandrashekhar came to know about the violence and alleged police excesses on Dalits, specially in parts of western UP, when a delegation of his organisation met him in jail.

The jail administration, however, has denied that Chandrashekhar is on hunger strike. “He intimated us through a letter a few days ago about the hunger strike but we denied permission,” said Viraj Raj, superintendent of Saharanpur district jail.

Walia, however, said the jail authorities are trying to spread confusion among supporters of the Bheem Army chief by giving such false statements. He claimed that Chandrashekhar’s mother met him in jail a couple of days ago and she said that her son had given up food as promised. Dalits are struggling for justice but the fact is that the district administration is ignoring their movement, said Walia.

Chandrashekar was arrested in June last year in connection with violence in Saharanpur in May last year. The Bheem Army had charged officials with shielding Rajputs after incidents of clashes between Dalits and Rajputs over carrying out a procession of Rajput king Maharana Pratap in Shabbirpur village. Bheem Army announced a Mahapanchayat to expose the bias of officials but it was denied permission and Chandrashekher was arrested.