NEW DELHI: Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad alias Ravan was released from jail on the orders of the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh on Friday.
Chandrashekhar, whose outfit is believed to have orchestrated the caste violence in the Saharanpur district in 2017, has pledged to unite Dalits to ensure the rout of the ruling BJP in the crucial 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The early release of Bhim Army chief from jail by the UP government is being seen as the ruling party's attempt to reach out to the Dalits ahead of the crucial polls.
After evading arrest for several days, Azad was arrested from Himachal Pradesh's Dalhousie in June last year in connection with the May 5 caste violence in which one person was killed and 16 others were injured at Shabbirpur village in Saharanpur.
The Allahabad High Court had granted him bail on November 2, 2017.
However, police booked him under the stringent National Security Act days before his release and lodged him in jail.
Charged under the NSA, he was to remain in jail till November 1.
"After going through the representation of Chandrashekhar's mother, it has been decided to release him early. He had to be in jail till November 1," a spokesperson of the Uttar Pradesh government's Home Department had said in Lucknow on Thursday.
Azad walked out of the jail around 2:40 AM. Hundreds of his supporters, wearing blue 'Bhim Army' caps, had gathered outside the prison to celebrate his release.
Dalit group's national spokesperson Manjeet Singh Nautiyal said, ''many had thronged his residence and distributed sweets in the neighbourhood while a section of his admirers made a beeline to click a selfie with the Dalit leader.''
"The Bhim Army will not buckle under pressure from the government and will fight in a constitutional manner to throw the BJP out of power in the general elections," Azad said.
The Dalit leader also accused the jail authorities of mistreating him during his stay in prison. Azad said that he was given "dry rotis" and his family was not allowed to meet him. He said that he had met several inconsolable youngsters inside the jail who were falsely implicated by the police due to their caste.
''All that I went through, I will make sure to return it to the BJP with interest in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls,'' he said, adding that he will not contest the upcoming elections.
He also accused the ruling BJP at the Centre of playing dirty politics on the SC/ST Act issue to which the members of the Dalit community will give a befitting answer to the party in 2019 elections.
"The March 20 Supreme Court judgement diluting the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was based on the government's views against the law," he alleged.
"Now, they have passed an amendment bill to restore the original version of the Act. We know what they are trying to do," he added.
Azad, according to sources, had written a letter from jail, asking the Bhim Army cadres to campaign in support of joint BSP-SP-RLD candidate Tabassum Hasan and trounce the BJP in the recent Kairana Lok Sabha bypoll.
(With PTI Inputs)