Nagpur, MAHARASHTRA — Politicians across party lines, intellectuals and activists have condemned the imminent incarceration of prominent Dalit intellectual Anand Teltumbde, who is expected to surrender before a court in Mumbai on April 14 for alleged Maoist links.
Congress leaders Udit Raj and Rajkumar Chabbewal, independent MLA from Gujarat and rights activist Jignesh Mevani, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi chief Prakash Ambedkar, CPI leader and Rajya Sabha MP D.Raja, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader Dr.Ravikumar and Dr.Thol Thirumavalavan, and Bhim Army’s Vinay Ratan Singh described Teltumbde’s imminent imprisonment as “tragic and shameful” for all Dalits, Adivasis, OBC, and minorities on many counts for all of India in a joint statement.
“Coinciding with the upcoming Ambedkar Jayanti, Dr Anand Teltumbde, one of India’s foremost public intellectuals and the strongest legatee of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s tradition of struggling for a truly democratic India, will be complying with the Supreme Court’s order to surrender to the jail authorities,” the statement said. “He will be surrendering on the 14th April 2020, between 12 noon - 2 pm at the Sessions Court in Mumbai. This is both tragic and shameful for all Dalits, Adivasis, OBC, and minorities on many counts for all of India. It marks a day on which this country will celebrate the 129th birth anniversary of one of its greatest minds and hearts, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and on which the mighty nationalist machinery seeks to crush the spirit that kept the flame of democracy alive in our midst. When even very repressive regimes around the world are releasing political prisoners in the face of the Coronavirus, great minds like Dr. Teltumbde are incarcerated.”
“When we allow the constitutional rights of a person like Dr Teltumbde to be sidelined, the arrest of Dr Teltumbde will be an obnoxious warning of the casteist Manuvadi regime to Dalit, Adivasi, OBC and minority intellectuals not to raise their voices of protest. This arrest reveals India’s deeply entrenched casteism for a ‘crime’ Dr Teltumbde has not committed and for which no proof has been produced. It becomes our duty to come together at this hour and demand that the Indian authorities allow Dr. Teltumbde to live and write, to be a free spirit that enlivens our democratic selves, and remain the beacon that he is for educating, organizing, and agitating for a better India and a better world. Let’s unite in the name of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar.”
Teltumbde, who is married to Dr Ambedkar’s granddaughter Rama, has been accused of organising the Elgar Parishad, a Dalit platform that the police claims was a Maoist front.
The Elgar Parishad, the Pune police claim, triggered the violence in Bhima Koregaon in the first week of January 2018. The National Investigation Agency is now probing the case.
Another prominent Activist Gautam Nawalakha is also likely to surrender along with Teltumbde. Both of them were granted repeated protection from arrest by the apex court until April 8 when a bench led by Justice Arun Mishra said that the time to surrender would not be extended.
Teltumbde’s expected arrest is the latest development in a controversial case that began as an investigation into the role of prominent BJP members and Hindutva activists Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide in instigating a mob to attack a gathering of Dalit pilgrims. While a section of the Pune police continues to investigate Ekbote and Bhide, another section is probing the role of so-called Urban Naxals in the incident. Ekbote was briefly arrested and quickly granted bail by the Maharashtra court, while Bhide was not arrested.
Meanwhile, rights activists say the Urban Naxal case has become an excuse to target lawyers, activists and intellectuals who have been critical of the BJP. Investigations into the Urban Naxal case began at a time when the government of Maharashtra was led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The electronic devices of colleagues, supporters and well-wishers of those accused in this case were targeted using a secretive Israeli snooping software called Pegasus.
When the BJP lost power last year, the Union Home Ministry, headed by the BJP’s Amit Shah, moved quickly to give the case to the National Investigation Agency. The Maharashtra state government initially tried to stop the NIA from seizing the case-files in a Pune court, only to reverse its stance a day before the court was scheduled to rule in the matter.