Dr. Anand Teltumbde, one of India’s leading scholars, public intellectuals, and human rights activists is in jail for a month now. We appeal to the country to observe May 16th as Justice Day to express our solidarity with him and other activists and intellectuals imprisoned under the Bhima Koregaon case.
Dr. Anand Teltumbde is today a national icon for justice. Born into a poor Dalit family in a village in Maharashtra, he worked as a painter to earn his education. He went on to become a mechanical engineer, before completing his doctorate in Cybernetics and an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad. One of the pioneers of data analytics in the country, he rose to become MD and CEO of Petronet India, a public sector undertaking, before taking up a professorship at IIT, Kharagpur. At the time of his arrest he was working as senior professor and chair, Big Data Analytics in Goa Institute of Management. His biographical journey reminds us of the life of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar, whose granddaughter he is married to.
Over the last two decades or so, Professor Teltumbde has emerged as one of India’s most coherent and respected voices of social justice. Through his writings and public engagements, he has raised voice against caste and other forms of oppression, while at the same time interrogating all forms of dogmas and orthodoxies. While expounding and elaborating on Dr Ambedkar’s ideas, he has cautioned us against Babasaheb’s deification and pushed the frontiers of our thinking on social justice. His uncompromising and passionate defence of constitutional values and human rights has brought him to question the policies of various regimes including the current one. It is hard to escape the conclusion that his arrest on Babasaheb’s anniversary is an outcome of his trenchant critique of the roots of the present system of oppression.
A firm believer in civil rights as an instrument to advance social justice, Dr. Teltumbde has been for long associated with the civil rights movement in the country. It is tragic that such an icon of justice is today at the receiving end of systemic injustice. It is shocking that a life long opponent of violent action stands accused of plotting political violence through a convention called by two retired High Court judges, a convention that he did not attend! It is ridiculous that he has been charged, among other things, of a conspiracy to assassinate the PM, without a shred of evidence. In this context, it is even more reprehensible that Dr. Teltumbde and other activists have been booked under the draconian UAPA that is being used to deny them bail and a fair and expeditious trial. It is strange that the National Investigation Agency suddenly and unilaterally took over the investigation in his case from Maharashtra Police, as soon as regime change in Maharashtra opened the possibility of a fair inquiry. It is a shame that a 69-year-old man, more susceptible to Covid-19 due to his pre-existing medical condition, was sent to prison just when under-trials and even convicts were being released to avoid exposure to the pandemic.
A prisoner of conscience, today Dr. Teltumbde represents resistance to oppression and injustice the world over. No wonder, academics, intellectuals, artists, activists, leaders, and civil rights organisations from India and abroad have raised their voice against his arrest. These include Amnesty International, India Civil Watch, Scholars at Risk Network, Professor Amartya Sen, Noam Chomsky, Jean Dreze, B. L. Mungekar, Arundhati Roy, Aparna Sen, Romila Thapar, Prabhat Patnaik, Devaki Jain, Prakash Ambedkar and Maja Daruwala, besides nearly 5,000 concerned citizens.
Therefore we propose that the coming Saturday, the 16th of May, the day he completes one month in jail, should be observed as a Justice Day, both to demand justice for Dr. Teltumbde and his co-accused activists in the Bhima Koregaon case and to reaffirm the idea of a just society that he has upheld. We hope that this contributes to a climate where citizens are not arrested for the views and values that they hold. Given the present restrictions on public gathering due to Coronavirus pandemic, we propose that we observe that day in the following way:
We all change our social media DP (profile picture) for one day on 16th May and put Dr Teltumbde’s picture (enclosed here)
We join a two-hour campaign on social media, from 4 pm to 6 pm, on 16th May to demand #Justice4Teltumbde
Starting that day, we organise webinars and virtual meetings through the month of May where we read and discuss Dr. Teltumbde’s and Babasaheb Ambedkar’s writings on social justice and civil liberties.
We call upon all those who cherish our constitutional values to participate in Justice Day and follow it up with on-ground meetings and protests when the present restrictions are lifted.
Following are the signatories
Rajmohan Gandhi (Writer, Research Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign)
Prashant Bhushan (Advocate, Supreme Court)
Admiral Ramdas (Former Chief of Naval Staff of the India)
Ajaykumar Singh (Former DGP & IGP, Karnataka State)
Anand Kumar, Prof (Rtd) JNU and President, Citizens for Communal Harmony
AN Yellappa Reddy (Environmentalist, Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forestry, Karnataka)
Aruna Roy (Founder, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan)
Ekanthayya (Veteran Political Leader and Former Minister, Karnataka)
Justice AP Shah (Former Chief Justice, Delhi High Court & Former Chairman, Law Commission of India)
Justice HN Nagamohan Das (Former Judge, High Court of Karnataka)
Justice Sudarshan Reddy (Former Justice Supreme Court of India)
KC Raghu (Nutritional Expert & Industrialist)
Kodandaramayya (Former Police Commissioner, Bengaluru City
Krishna (KR Pete) (Former Speaker, Karnataka Legislative Assembly)
Kumar Prashant (President, Gandhi Peace Foundation)
Mariswamy (Former Director Genaral of Police, Karnataka)
SK Kantha (Labour Leader & Former Labour Welfare Minister)
Suhas Palshikar, Prof (Rtd) Savitribai Phule University, Pune and Editor, Studies in Indian Politics
Vaidehi (Writer, Sahitya Academy Awardee)
Wajahat Habibullah (Former Chief Information Commissioner)
Yogendra Yadav (President, Swaraj India)
Justice AJ Sadashiva (Former Judge, High Court of Karnataka)
Prof. Ravi Verma Kumar (Former Advocate General of Karnataka)
Sugata Raju (Senior Journalist)
Malay Bhattacharya (Professor Indian Institute of Management Bangalore)
Bezwada Wilson (Magassey Awardee)
Trilochana Sastry (Professor Indian Institute of Management, Bengaluru)
Dinesh Amin Mattu (Senior Journalist)
Abhay (Grameena Kooli Karmikara Sanghatane Karnataka)
Indudhara Honnapura (Senior Jouranlist)
B T Venkatesh (Senior counsel Advocate)
Salil Shetty (Former Secretary General of the human rights organization Amnesty International)
S.R. Hiremath (National President Citizens for Democracy)
Devanoora Mahadeva (Writer, Padmashree awardee and Central Sahitya Akademy awardee)