With Bheem Army chief Chandrashekher sitting on hungerstrike in Saharanpur jail demanding the withdrawal of cases against Dalits during April 2 Bharat Bandh against the Supreme Court’s decision on SC/ST Act, his supporters in 22 villages followed in his footsteps over a similar demand.

Kamal Singh Walia, the district president of Bheem Army in Sahanapur, said people were on hunger strike in 22 villages of the district to show solidarity with their leader. “Health of a few activists however deteriorated in Behat town on Wednesday and they have been admitted to hospital,” he said.

Chandrashekher started hungerstrike inside the jail a few days before putting forward his demand for withdrawal of fake cases against the Dalits booked in connection of the violence of April 2 during the Bharat Bandh.

Chandrashekher came to know about the violence and alleged police excesses on Dalits, especially in parts of western UP, when a delegation of the Bheem Army met him in jail after the violence.

The jail administration, however, has denied that Chandrashekher 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.

To this, Walia said the jail authorities were trying to spread confusion among the supporters of Chandrashekhar chief by giving “false statements”. He said Chandrashekher’s mother met him in the jail a couple of days ago and she conformed to the organisation that her son had given up food.

Walia said Dalits were struggling for justice but the district administration was ignoring their movement to demoralise them.

Chandrashekhar was arrested in June last year in connection with violence in Saharanpur in May last year. Accusing the police of shielding Rajputs after incidents of clashes between Dalits and Rajputs over a procession of Rajput king Maharana Pratap in Shabbirpur village, Bheem Army had declared to convene a mahapanchayat to expose the “bias”. Chandrashekhar was, however, denied permission for the mahapanchayat and was arrested when he still tried to hold one.

While the police invoked National Security Act against Chandrashekher, Dalits are demanding his immediate release.