The All India Forum For Right To Education has condemned the threat to arrest activist Anand Teltumbde, who was charged in connection with the violence at Bhima Koregaon on January 1 last year.
The statement was issued in response to the imminent arrest that the activist faces after the Supreme Court on January 14 rejected his appeal to quash the first information report filed by the Pune Police against him. Last month, the Bombay High Court had dismissed a petition filed by Teltumbde seeking to quash the FIR and granted him interim protection from arrest for three weeks, during which he can seek bail from a trial court.
“AIFRTE strongly condemns the threatened arrest of Prof Teltumbde and demands that the Maharashtra government should immediately drop all charges (including those under UAPA) against Prof Anand Teltumbde,” said the statement issued on Sunday.
The statement claims that the police had “acted at the behest of their Bharatiya Janata Party political bosses” and “fabricated” charges of plotting a “Rajiv Gandhi-style assassination of Prime Minister Narendra Modi” against Teltumbde. “Fabrications such as this have allowed the police to apply the dreaded UAPA [Unlawful Activities Prevention Act], which leaves no defence for the arrested who can be incarcerated for years without evidence,” it said.
The statement said no one is held accountable for unjustly holding someone in prison and for “destroying victims and their families”. “In the country, when the due process of law itself is a punishment that the police use to the hilt, it is nothing short of capital punishment to a professional-intellectual-activist like Prof Teltumbde,” it said.
The forum also appealed to all its member organisations and to the university community across the country to immediately condemn the action against Teltumbde “by approaching the national and regional media, issuing statements through social media and organising protest meetings”.
A group of Ambedkarite organisations last week issued a statement demanding the withdrawal of “fabricated charges” against Teltumbde. They said the Pune Police had released “fabricated letters” addressed to “Comrade Anand” as evidence, but Teltumbde had refuted all the charges with documentary proof.
A group of alumni of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, on Sunday had also extended their support to batchmate Teltumbde. “We are alarmed that a public intellectual who has made selfless contributions to the nation through his scholarship, can be under the threat of imprisonment on the basis of extremely questionable and prima facie motivated evidence,” they had said.
Five activists – Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson and Sudhir Dhawale – were arrested by the Pune Police in June 2018 and five more – Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao – in August 2018. They were accused of being involved in an event that preceded the violence between Dalits and Marathas at Bhima Koregaon near Pune on January 1, 2018. They were subsequently placed under house arrest. Teltumbde and activist Stan Swamy’s homes and offices were searched.
The arrested activists are accused of masterminding the violence in Bhima Koregaon and of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).