The Curious Case of Anand Teltumbde

By Ashwin Tombat
24 March 2019 19:49 IST

He was born in a poor Dalit family in a tiny village in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra, studied hard, became an engineer and went on to get an MBA from the prestigious Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, all on merit, without availing reservation.

He then rose to become Executive Director of Bharat Petroleum (BP) and Managing Director of Petronet India Ltd. He left industry for academics, and was a Professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, for five years. Presently, he is a Senior Professor at the Goa Institute of Management (GIM), a member of its Board of Governors, and is piloting a course in Big Data Analytics; the first in the country.

Prof Anand Teltumbde is also married to Rama, the granddaughter of Dr B R (Babasaheb) Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution of India.

He should be a role model, but he may soon be behind bars.

Prof Anand has also been an activist for justice, right from his school days. In 1967, when Brahmin students in his school started wearing black RSS caps instead of white Nehru caps, the 14-year-old Anand bought 100 blue caps with money he had earned painting cinema billboards and distributed them among students. Taken to the headmaster, Anand told him that the students would continue to wear blue caps until all students wore the correct school uniform. Shortly after, the RSS boys stopped wearing black caps.

He has since written over 20 books, penned hundreds of articles in newspapers, magazines and academic journals, and is an acknowledged scholar of the Ambedkarite movement. He is also the General Secretary of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR).

Regardless of all his accomplishments, Prof Teltumbde fears he may soon end up in jail.

On 14 January 2019, the Supreme Court refused to quash a case filed by Pune Police against him for the violence at Bhima Koregaon on 1 January 2018. It gave him four weeks to seek bail.

Prof Anand has been booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act — UAPA. Under this law, if a police officer merely claims there is evidence against an accused, (s)he is doomed to languish in jail until their exoneration after a trial that may go on for years.

As Teltumbde explained in an appeal to the public: “Arrest for me is not simply the hardship of prison life. It is keeping me away from my laptop, which is integral to my body… from my students, who have staked their futures on my professional reputation…” The law may say that an accused is innocent till (s)he is proven guilty, but in UAPA, it is just the opposite.

The Pune Police claims he incited the violence at Bhima-Koregaon, that he is an ‘Urban Naxal’, and that he is involved in a conspiracy to murder the Prime Minister. The evidence, they say, is in five letters they claim to have found. These letters have not been certified as genuine.

One says that he attended a human rights seminar in Paris that was funded by the Maoists. The well-known university where it was held has since written to the French Embassy in India protesting against this absurd defamatory charge. Another letter says one “Anand T” was paid “90k” by Maoists. According to Teltumbde, it is a laughably small amount; just a little more than what he paid as Income Tax every month. One more letter says one “Com Anand” suggested involving students in an “AGM” meeting. Police claim it stands for Anuradha Ghandy Memorial meeting, for the 50th anniversary of Naxalbari.

Whether they are fabricated or real, the fact is that none of these letters are written by Anand to anyone, or by anyone to Anand. Not a single has been recovered from his possession. Can unverified, unconnected letters be sufficient to deprive an outstanding Indian of his freedom for years, merely because they refer to a fairly common first name that he shares? Sadly, the Higher Judiciary, seen as the last protector of our Constitutional rights, refused to intervene and quash the case.  

The actual perpetrators of the violence at Bhima Koregaon — Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote — are scotfree. People who were not even present at the spot are locked up; only because they openly oppose the party in power. Is this Justice? Is this Democracy?

(Originally published on Sunday 3 February 2019, in 'Lokmat')

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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