The seven people who are still in jail in the Bhima Koregaon case have congratulated their co-accused Anand Teltumbde for having been granted the Karnataka government’s Basava Award on January 31 and pushing “forward the wheel of democratic revolution of annihilating the caste system”.

“Those who honestly want to bring about fundamental change in the extant system have taken a serious note of your analyses,” they said in a letter to the scholar-activist. “And those who wanted to run their businesses played games of besmirching your image with various stamps and labels.”

Teltumbde was granted bail in the case in November 2022.

He had been arrested for being part of an alleged conspiracy to instigate a caste riot in January 2018 in the village of Bhima Koregaon near Pune. A total of 16 people – academics, musicians, lawyers, poets and activsts – were arrested in the case. They have also been accused of plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Five years later, the trial in the case is yet to begin. One person accused in the case, Jesuit priest Stan Swamy, died in prison in 2021. In addition to Teltumbde, seven others have been released on bail.

When the Supreme Court last year granted bail to two people accused in the case, it noted that the primary evidence cited by the National Investigation Agency – a batch of letters – was of “weak probative value or quality”. In addition, a digital forensics firm, Arsenal Consulting, concluded that false evidence had been planted on the laptops and devices of the accused.

The seven people still imprisoned in the case, in their letter to Teltumbde, praised his role in exposing the “disease of the caste system” and providing a “practical roadmap of annihilation of the caste system”.

Despite the attacks on him, they wrote, “your words and deeds never paid heed to such repressive assaults in your life. Your words could never be suppressed. On the contrary, they became increasingly sharper, resolute and fearless. These razor-sharp formulations, ironclad logic, profound analyses, accompanied by practical life-struggle have transformed you into a real public intellectual.”

The decision to give Teltumbde the prize, which he received from Karnakata Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, “can be seen as a small streak of light in the present era fraught with darkness”, the letter said.

The prize is named after Basava, the 12th-century Lingayat social reformer. “The award is given to you as an ideal legatee of Basava, the prophet of daya [compassion], ahimsa [non-violence] and samata [equality],” they wrote. “This function has awakened an expectation that the forces fighting against caste-class-gender slavery and fascism may turn into a deluge in not so distant future.”