Bhim Army – Bharat Ekta Mission was founded in 2015 in Western UP’s Saharanpur district. Caste motivated attacks, desecrated statues of important dalit figures, riots and property destruction by Hindu right wing forces ran rampant in Saharanpur. Bhim Army built themselves up as a pressure group of dalit assertion and made it clear that mistreatment and violence on Dalits will no longer be tolerated, and Dalits ought to be treated with dignity.
With time, Bhim Army evolved to work towards the upliftment of the community as a whole. In keeping with Babasaheb’s exhortation to educate oneself and the community, Bhim Army set up Bhim Paathshaala, free after school tuition centers for children.The concept took root and spread throughout western UP. Dalit children often experience discriminatory treatment in classrooms, which leads them to get left behind socially and academically, despite government institute education policies. The Bhim Paathshaala, patronised mostly by dalit children is a space of kinship and learning, teachers are volunteers and resources are sourced from within the community itself. In it’s unique teaching model, the volunteer teachers teach the older children, who in turn teach the younger children. The initiative has greatly helped improve the literacy and academic performance of the children who attend. The centres also expose the children to inspirational figures, songs and mythologies from the dalit community and offer an alternative culture to the hegemonic Brahmanical narrative pervasive in culture they’re otherwise exposed to.
Following a rally at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar against Thakur caste atrocities in Saharanpur, Bhim Army founder Chandrashekar Azadwas detained under the draconian National Security Act, which allows jail without trial for 15 months. In 2019, Bhim Army was part of two important protests – one against the demolishment of the Ravidas Mandir in Delhi, and also supported the anti ‘Citizenship Amendment Act’ and ‘National Register of Citizenry’ which sparked countrywide agitations at the close of the year. Chandrashekar Azad also showed his support to the students of Jamia Millia Islamia University and the women of Shaheen Bagh during the CAA/NRC protests