[dropcap]O[/dropcap]N Tuesday, February 5, 2019, noted journalists P. Sainath and Niranjan Takle and noted author Urmila Pawar and activists from Mumbai, Jatin Desai and Feroze Mithirborewala condemned the police action against Prof. Anand Teltumbde and urged people to speak up against the undemocratic practices of the current government, which Mr Sainath said was criminalising dissent.
They were speaking at a press conference organised by Mumbai Rises to Save Democracy (MRSD), a platform of over forty human rights organisations from in and around Mumbai on the “Illegal arrest and hounding of Prof. Anand Teltumbde w.r.t. the Bhima Koregaon case.”
In another attempt to silence dissent, scholar, writer and Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) general secretary Prof. Anand Teltumbde was arrested in wee hours of February 2, 2019 from Bombay airport. This, in complete disregard to the Supreme Court (SC) granting him four weeks’ protection from arrest to enable him to seek regular/pre-arrest bail from a lower court.
Violating the apex court’s order and by citing the denial of anticipatory bail, the police took Teltumbde into custody. Several hours later, he was released by Special Court in Pune and has protection as per SC order till February 11. The court held the detention “illegal”. The Bombay High Court has asked the state to file a reply to the Anticipatory Bail Application of Prof. Teltumbde. The court has adjourned the case till February 11 and also provided Dr Teltumbde protection from arrest till it pronounces its decision in the matter.
Mr Sainath said that practice of criminalising dissent and intellectual intimidation have been practiced by past governments as well but they had been taken to a new level by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government. “I am not surprised with what is happening to Anand Teltumbde or Sudha Bharadwaj because they are among the most articulate intellectuals in the country. The cases are just taking the process further. It’s not over and it can and will get worse unless we are able to confront it squarely,” he said.
This “illegal detention” is yet another move as the state continues its witch-hunt against activists, scholars, lawyers, intellectuals, workers, dalits and voices of dissent. Charged under the UAPA, nine activists – Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhavale, Rona Som, Mahesh Raut, Prof. Shoma Sen, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Prof Varavara Rao and the Reliance workers arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case continue to be in custody today. Adv. Gadling and Varavara Rao were rearrested by Pune police even as they were still in Pune jail, in a 2016 case!
Prof. Anand Teltumbde has been vocal about how caste has persisted from the feudal to post-colonial India, his radical thoughts and work has influenced many. He has also authored books like Khairlanji: A Strange and Bitter Crop, The Persistence of Caste: India’s Hidden Apartheid and the Khairlanji Murders and more, with the most recent one being the Republic of Caste.
Urmila Pawar spoke about the continued repression against dalits, especially the youth in universities across the country. “The state was clueless about Khairlanji and the gruesome violence that was meted towards dalit men, women and children until a group of us which included Anand Teltumbde took a morcha to the Mantralaya,” Urmila Pawar said.
Prof. Anand Teltumbde belonging to a Dalit family of poor peasants in Vidarbha, went on to study at the IIM, Ahmedabad and then went on to becoming the Executive Director of BPCL, MD and CEO of Petronet India, Professor in IIT, Kharagpur and now heads the Big Data Analytics programme of the Goa Institute of Management.
Niranjan Takle said no letters had ever been found during the investigations into the assassinations of Mahatma Gandhi or Prime Ministers (PM) Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi or during the assassinations Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh. “Are they stupid to write hundreds of letters stating their plans to assassinate? And if the evidence is so strong then why not admit it in court?” he said.
We, at MRSD strongly believe that Prof. Teltumbde, along with the others, has been falsely implicated in the Bhima Koregaon case. Falling short of any concrete evidence, the 5000-page first chargesheet in the case, accuses the intellectuals of being Maoist sympathisers and of inciting violence at Bhima Koregaon and plotting a “Rajiv Gandhi like assassination” all on the basis of alleged ”letters” which were leaked to the media before they could be presented in the courts.
The framing of activists and suppression continues while Hindutva leaders – Manohar alias Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, the primary accused named by the victims of violence, roam scot free. Bhide was never arrested or even questioned while Ekbote was arrested for a brief period and later released on bail.
The continued arrests, harassment and threats to activists and intellectuals is unlawful, an attempt to vilify human rights defenders’ and should be seen as a sign of concerted efforts to stifle voices of dissent and threaten the democratic fabric of the country. Moreover, false cases were lodged on several Dalit protestors in the aftermath of Bhima Koregaon violence, the FIRs against them have yet not been closed and they face the looming threat of criminalisation
We, at MRSD condemn illegal arrest and harassment of Prof. Teltumbde at the hands of the Pune Police. We extend our continued and whole hearted support to the activists who continue to be in custody. We yet again call out and condemn the state’s attempt to divert attention from investigation into the role of Hindutva groups in attacking the Bhima Koregaon visitors and prosecuting the real culprits. We urge the conscientious citizens and media to highlight the illegal arrests, lack of consideration given to the rule of law in cases of activists and the continued criminalisation of these activists by the state.
We reiterate our demand to repeal the draconian UAPA, arrest and prosecution of Hindutva leaders Bhide and Ekbote. We demand an immediate end to repressive measures of the state against the Dalit protestors and voices of dissent.