Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi leader Prakash Ambedkar on Sunday expressed concern over the “hounding” of academic Anand Teltumbde, accusing the government of wanting to “incarcerate him in jails for years”. Teltumbde is being investigated for his alleged connection with the violence that broke out at Bhima Koregaon near Pune in January 2018.

Addressing a press conference at the Maharashtra Sadan in the national Capital on Sunday, Ambedkar said, “We, the members of family of Babasaheb Ambedkar, are concerned about the hounding of Teltumbde, who has been part of us since 1983.”

He added that when Teltumbde was first implicated in the Elgar Parishad case, the family was hopeful the police would “realise their mistake”, and if the need arises, the judiciary would quash the case against him. “But recently when the High Court rejected his petition and the vehemence with which the Central government took away the case to National Investigation Agency, the intentions of the state has become clearer that it wants to incarcerate him in jails for years,” he added.

The Bombay High Court on Friday refused to grant anticipatory bail to activists Gautam Navlakha and Teltumbde in the Bhima Koregaon case. However, the court extended the interim protection from arrest granted to them for four weeks, so that they could file a plea in the Supreme Court.

Navlakha and Teltumbde were booked under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and various sections of the Indian Penal Code following the violence at Koregaon Bhima village in Pune on January 1, 2018. Teltumbde has called the charges against him the “vilest plot in post-Independence India.

A Pune sessions court had in November last year rejected anticipatory bail pleas of Navlakha and Teltumbde. The court also denied a three-day interim protection to the duo, paving the way for their arrest in the case. Subsequently, they moved the Bombay High Court.

Ambedkar accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of falsely implicating Teltumbde in the Elgar Parishad case. “Teltumbde is a part of Ambedkar family and perhaps, therefore, the BJP government has targeted him as the softest target to touch the family,” he said. “When he was illegally arrested by the [Pune] Police, there was a wave of protests across the world at unprecedented scale,” he added. “The process of Elgar Parishad case has amply revealed the fabrication of case.”

The parliamentarian added that unlike others accused in the case, no evidence has been recovered against Teltumbde in the case. “He stands already interrogated over two days at the instance of the High Court,” he added. “However, the case is persisted with extreme amoral zeal.”

Earlier in February, the Centre had transferred the Elgar Parishad inquiry from the Pune Police to the National Investigation Agency, on approval from Shiv Sena chief and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

Questioning the timing of the investigation, Ambedkar said, “The case that stood on the confiscated digital devices, which in absence of the hash values remained wide open to be manipulated by the police must have been dismissed at the inception itself. But under the plea that it would be dealt with at the time of trial and misusing the provisions of the draconian law like UAPA which does not allow anticipatory bail, the innocent persons are held in jail for years.”

Expressing concern for the academic’s life and the suffering of his family, Ambedkar said: “We call upon the entire Ambedkarite people to raise their voice taking it as the attack on Ambedkar family and the attempt to defile the legacy of Babasaheb Ambedkar.”

The case

Violence broke out between Dalits and Marathas in the village of Bhima Koregaon near Pune on January 1, 2018. This came a day after an event in Pune called the Elgar Parishad was organised to commemorate the Battle of Bhima Koregaon in 1818 in which the Dalit Mahar soldiers fighting for the British Army defeated the Brahmin Peshwa rulers of the Maratha empire. One person died in violence during a bandh called by Dalit outfits on January 2.

The investigating agency named 11 of the 23 accused in the FIR, including activists Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, P Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha. Except Teltumbde and Navlakha, the others were arrested by Pune Police in June and August 2018 in connection with the violence. They were accused of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), and are still in prison.