Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad -- one of the most prominent faces of countrywide protests against the citizenship law -- today launched his political group, which he called the "Azad Samaj Party". The launch took place on the birth anniversary of BSP founder and Dalit icon Kanshi Ram. The Bhim Army, Mr Azad said, will run parallel to the party and continue to fight for Dalit rights and enrol new members.
The party flag is a white band between two blue strips, with Azad Samaj Party written in the middle.
News agency Press Trust of India reported that earlier today, the Bhim Army members claimed the police locked the gates of the venue and pasted a notice, which read, "Event cannot be held as large gatherings are prohibited in view of coronavirus". The gate, however, was opened later.
Mr Azad rose to political prominence during the clashes between Thakurs and Dalits in Uttar Pradesh's Saharanpur three years ago. Last year, he filed nomination against Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Varanasi, but later, withdrew from the contest.
Since December, as the protests against the contentious citizenship law started, he has been one of the most vocal leaders against it.
Late last year, he was arrested by the Delhi police after violence at an anti-CAA march that started in the Walled City of Delhi. Mr Azad – who addressed the protesters at the Jama Masjid just before the march started – was charged with arson, rioting and inciting violence. He was also barred from entering Delhi for four weeks.
The advocate-turned-politician has been critical of Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, accusing her of "not doing enough for the Dalits". Mayawati had earlier termed Azad a "BJP agent" and cautioned her supporters not to "fall prey to his designs".