As PM Modi reminds the nation on the values of Ambedkar on Ambedkar Jayanti while extending the lockdown, his words couldnt have been more shallow.
Dr. Anand Teltumbde’s human rights defender and one of India’s leading public intellectuals will be forced to comply with the Supreme Court’s directive and surrendering himself to the Maharashtra Police.
Anand Teltumbde has been falsely accused of being responsible for the violence that broke out in Bhima Koregaon on January 1st, 2018 and conspiring to kill the Prime Minister of India. He and nine other activists and human rights advocates have been falsely accused in this case and have been booked against the repressive UAPA law.
The violence in Bhima Koregaon broke out during the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of Dalit victory over Peshwas. Following this, in June 2018 the police booked activists Sudha Bhardwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Varavara Rao, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawale, and Gautham Navlakha. Apart from Navlakha, the other nine are still in police custody. The charges against the activist are based on letters that have been exchanged, but there is no proof that they wrote these letters and no substantial proof has been submitted by the police to show that these letters were written by them.
On 17th March, the Supreme Court rejected the anticipatory bail application for both Anand Teltumbde and Gautham Navlakha and gave them 3 weeks to surrender. On 8th March, they pushed this deadline by another week and noted that they already have had a lengthy period of protection against the arrest.
The Supreme Court has ignored the fact that the nation is in the middle of a global pandemic and putting people more people in jail endangers the whole country. While other countries are releasing political prisoners to avoid the spread, the judiciary is insistent on sending taking in two political prisoners, both over the age of 65. Both of them have serious medical conditions, which when combined with the threat of COVID-19, can affect the health and safety of the activists.
Anand Teltumbde will be arrested on the 14th of April, on the day the foremost visionary of India was born, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. This arrest is a stark reminder of the casteism of the Indian State and Judiciary. The state wants to incarcerate activists in jails for speaking up against the human rights violations of marginalised communities. Quelling the voices of dissent in a country is the doing of this fascist government.
Anand Teltumbde wrote an open letter to the people before he goes into custody tomorrow. He ends this letter by saying “Well, I am off to NIA custody and do not know when I shall be able to talk to you again. However, I earnestly hope that you will speak out before your turn comes.”
We condemn this action by the state and believe that the allegations against the activists are fabricated. We urge activists around the country to speak up and condemn these actions.