Professor Anand Teltumbde, an IIM-Ahmedabad alumnus, IIT Professor, Executive Director of BPCL, Ex-MD & CEO of Petronet India, Senior Professor and Chair, Big Data Analytics in GIM, author of 26 books, columnist in EPW, writer of innumerable articles, a noted scholar of caste-class and public policy issues, Leading Public Intellectual and Democratic and Educational Rights Activist faces imminent threat of arrest as an ‘Urban Maoist’ in the vilest post-independence plot by the state.
The criminal farce of exploiting an important day of commemoration for the Dalits, the anniversary of the battle that took place at Bhima-Koregaon in 1818 in which the Mahar soldiers played a leading role in defeating the Peshwa rulers, to incarcerate select human rights defenders, intellectuals and activists in peoples’ movements and curb dissent in the country is an unprecedented and blatant abuse of power.
Justice P B Sawant, retired judge of the Supreme Court and Justice B G Kolse-Patil, ex-judge of the Bombay High Court invited activists and progressive intellectuals to the Elgar Parishad on 31 December 2017 at Shaniwarwada to mobilize people against the communal and casteist policies of the NDA government led by the BJP. More than 250 organizations joined, including some Maratha organizations who had never before aligned politically with the Dalits. This alarmed the power obsessed BJP, which responded by commissioning its agent provocateurs, Milind Ekbote of Samastha Hindutva Aghadi and Sambhaji Bhide of Shiv Chhatrapati Pratishan, to create a rift between Dalits and Marathas.
At the end of the conference, participants took an oath not to vote for the BJP and to protect the constitution of India. The entire conference was video-recorded by the police as well as by the organizers. Nothing untoward took place at the conference and all the delegates dispersed peacefully.
On 1 January, when Dalits congregated at Bhima-Koregaon, the Hindutva goons mounted a planned attack pelting stones from the terraces of houses lining the road, beating people and burning stalls. The police merely looked on, establishing the administration’s complicity. Rumours that mischief was planned were widespread among common people, but the administration had feigned ignorance and allowed riots to happen. WhatsApp messages showed saffron flag bearers shouting slogans in the name of Ekbote and Bhide chasing and beating the Dalits who were caught unawares.
On 8 January, one Tushar Damgade, an RSS functionary and a disciple of Sambhaji Bhide, filed an FIR naming Kabir Kala Manch activists for organizing the Elgar Parishad, claiming that inflammatory speeches caused the violence on 1 January.
Nine days after the conference, the police began working according to this scripted plan. They raided houses of specific people and insinuated that Maoists had funded and organized the Parishad, ignoring the public statements by Justice Kolshe-Patil and in the chargesheet attached a statement attributed to Justice Sawant, which he has publicly denied.
Finally, police claimed that there was a plot to carry out a “Rajiv Gandhi style” assassination of Prime Minister Narendra Modi! These fabrications have allowed the police to apply the dreaded UAPA which leaves no defence for the arrested who can be incarcerated for years without evidence. It is a perfect vehicle for the police, acting at the behest of their political bosses, to claim knowledge of fabricated “crimes”.
Under the circumstances, on 14thJanuary 2019 the Supreme Court rejected Prof. Teltumbde’s appeal for quashing the “false” FIR against him filed by the Pune Police, stating that the matter was under investigation and that he could seek pre-arrest bail from the competent court within four weeks.
Coming from the poorest of poor family, Prof. Teltumbde has passed through the best institutes in the country with scholastic achievements. IT naturally propelled him to take cudgel for the disadvantaged people in the manner possible for his professional jobs. He is currently General Secretary of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) and Presidium Member of All India Forum for Right to education (AIFRTE), a movement for people’s educational rights. There is not an iota of the “unlawful” either in his voluminous writings or his selfless activism. His entire academic career and corporate career of nearly four decades has been an example of integrity of the highest degree.
In the country, when the due process of law itself is a punishment that the police use to the hilt, it is nothing short of capital punishment to an professional-intellectual-activist like Prof Teltumbde. People in the past have been kept in jail for averagely five years before they were acquitted of every charge. There is absolutely no accountability of anyone in our justice delivery system for this unlawful incarceration and destroying victims and their families. Prof Teltumbde expressed his anguish over this prospect that he would be kept away from his intellectual activities, from his students who are admitted in the Big Data Analytics course, the first of its kind he launched this year, and worried about the investment that GIM made. He is worried about his half-written manuscripts of books committed to various publishers, research papers at various stages of completion, and his family—wife, who, as the granddaughter of Babasaheb Ambedkar hardly bargained for this fate and daughters who are already disturbed not knowing whatever that has been happening to him since August last year.
The time has come to build a visible campaign in support of Prof. Teltumbde across the country and among various sections of the people to prevent his imminent arrest.
AIFRTE strongly condemns the threatened arrest of Prof Anand and demands that the Maharashtra government should immediately drop all charges (including those under UAPA) against Prof Anand Teltumbde.
AIFRTE also appeals to all its member organizations and to the university community across the country to immediately begin this process by approaching the national and regional media, issuing statements through social media and organizing protest meetings.