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'Release Chandra Shekhar Azad': Azad Samaj Party Slams Arrest of Bhim Army Chief

Azad was arrested to reportedly keep him away from a protest supporting the COVID Health Assistants.

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Bhim Army Chief Chandra Shekhar Azad was arrested from a hotel in Jaipur on the intervening night of 1 and 2 July, along with 21 others, under CrPC Section 151 to reportedly keep them away from a protest supporting the Covid Health Assistants (CHA), on 2 July.

Dalit activist Dharmendra Kumar told The Indian Express that Azad was in Jaipur to support the protest organised by Covid Health Assistants, demanding job regularisation.

DCP West Mridul Kachawa said that it was a “preventive arrest.” Section 144 has been imposed across Rajasthan for a month, following Kanhaiya Lal's murder in Udaipur.

Interestingly, Section 144 was relaxed on the march route for the 'Sarv Hindu Samaj' rally called by Hindutva organisations on Thursday in Udaipur. Meanwhile, curfew was also relaxed for 12 hours on Monday, 4 July.

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Kumar added that Azad had told Jaipur police that the protest could be postponed if the government did not want it to happen now.

"However, the police arrived around 12.30 am and picked up Azad and others,” he said.

'Release Him Or We Will Gherao Congress Office': Azad Samaj Party

The Azad Samaj Party, formally launched by Azad in 2020, in a statement called for Azad's immediate release.

According to the statement, the arrest by the Gehlot-led government was "unconstitutional" and if he wasn't released soon, the party along with the Bhim Army would "gherao" the Congress Party headquarters in Delhi.

All Bhim army members and party workers from across the country have been instructed to be prepared for the protest, the statement further said.

'Sent to Judicial Custody Without Due Process': PUCL

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Rajasthan on Sunday, 3 July, called this an "illegal arrest".

“What was the urgency to arrest them in the middle of the night? The other 21 accused, all Dalits who were with Azad in the hotel, were also dragged out from their rooms and all 22 were arrested under CrPC section 151,” the PUCL said.

Terming the arrest under Section 151 a "mockery of the freedom of speech and expression", the civil liberties body added that the police had no evidence on the design to commit any cognizable offence.

"Instead they were in a dialogue with the police. It is clear that the police are exercising their unbridled power of preventive detention and denying Azad his constitutional right to protest,” it said.

PUCL also alleged that due process was not followed when Azad and others were sent to judicial custody, "without providing the accused any opportunity to be heard and bail application to be filed."

(With inputs from The Indian Express.)

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