An illness is upon us. Hot on the heels of the news that a chargesheet has been filed against three student leaders of Jawaharlal Nehru University – Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya – accusing them of Sedition, comes the news that the ground is being prepared for the arrest of the well known intellectual and columnist, Anand Teltumbde, by the Maharashtra Police. He has been charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, which means he can be held without bail for months together on the basis of little or no evidence. The crimes he is being accused of, just as in the case of a host of other teachers, lawyers, activists and ordinary people who have been incarcerated in their hundreds, are beyond preposterous.
They will no doubt all eventually be released by the higher courts. No doubt when that happens we will all solemnly reaffirm our faith in the courts of this land. But as far as the prisoners are concerned that could well be years from now. Until then they will rot in jail. Their careers will be disrupted. Their loved ones will be exhausted from running from pillar to post. Attempts will be made to break them down emotionally and financially. We all know that in India, process is the real punishment.
Anand Teltumbde is one of our most important public intellectuals. His books on Ambedkar’s Mahad Satyagraha, the Khairlanji massacre, and, most recently, Republic of Caste, are vital and indispensable reading. To arrest him is to try and silence a powerful and unique Dalit voice with an unimpeachable intellectual track record. His impending arrest cannot but be seen as a political act. It will be a shameful and shocking moment in our history.