New Delhi: Members of the All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE) on Monday called the charges against academic Anand Teltumbde in the Bhima Koregaon violence case “vague and based on no concrete evidence”, criticising the Supreme Court’s decision to deny him anticipatory bail.
Teltumbde is the current senior professor and chair of Big Data Analytics at Goa Institute of Management (GIM), a professor at IIT Kharagpur and a noted scholar on information technology, education and caste. He has been charged with having links to banned Maoist organisations and charges have been registered against him under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
In an online press conference, AIFRTE noted that during the nationwide lockdown, the government is releasing many undertrial prisoners and convicts on parole. It is “appalling” that the SC rejected Teltumbde’s bail plea, they said. The forum’s president Jagmohan Singh said that the court should grant pre-arrest bail to Teltumbde.
“The court has released convicted persons from jail because their stay inside jails is not safe during this time when COVID-19 is spreading. There is no credible evidence against Teltumbde in this case. It is not proper to arrest him and put him in jail,” he said during the conference.
Last month, the top court had rejected Teltumbde’s anticipatory bail application, along with activist Gautam Navlakha’s, and gave the duo three weeks to surrender. Since then, civil society organisations, alumni of IIM and international scholars have criticised the order and have urged the top court to reconsider.
The three week deadline ended on Monday night.
During the conference, the charges against Teltumbde were described as “vague and based on no concrete evidence.”
The forum said it has made efforts to mobilise support for the professor through online petitions and a Twitter storm.
Ramesh Patnaik, the forum’s member, said that on Sunday, nearly 45 activists in Andhra Pradesh sat on a hunger strike (from 9 am till 5 pm) to register their opposition to the SC’s decision. According to the forum’s joint statement, they have forwarded an online petition in support of Teltumbde to the president and the chief justice of India, urging them to “drop the ill-conceived case against him while also appealing to the Prime Minister and the Central Home Minister to issue instructions to the concerned authorities accordingly.”
‘This virus older than the pandemic’
The members said that keeping Teltubde in the prison is not justified considering his illness, the unhygienic condition of prisons and the COVID-19 pandemic. “Prof. Teltumbde is 68 years old and a chronic asthmatic and hence is in the highest target category threatened with the Novel coronavirus,” said the statement.
Delhi University professor Hany Babu criticised the government’s approach to brand anyone who speaks against the government’s policies as an “anti-national”. This “virus” he says, is older than the ongoing pandemic. “When the world is letting out all the prisoners, why not Teltumbde?” he added.
The statement also criticises the UAPA, which they said could be used as a tool to suppress dissenting voices. “It [the case against Teltumbde] is motivated with the intention of silencing a significant critical voice against anti-democratic policies and practices of the government. This includes Prof. Teltumbde’s stand against the NEP 2020 as it is against the core features of Indian Constitution including reservation and social justice,” the statement said.
The complete statement has been reproduced below.
Condemn the impending arrest of Prof. Anand Teltumbde and to demand dropping of trumped up charges against him
AIFRTE organised a virtual press conference on 6th April 2020 to register its strongest condemnation of the impending arrest of Prof. Anand Teltumbde, Member Presidium of AIFRTE and Senior Professor and Chair Big Data Analysis, Goa Institute of Management, on April 6, 2020. The Supreme Court had denied him anticipatory bail on the demand of the NIA although he had been fully co-operating with investigating agencies.
The video of the press-conference is available online and can be downloaded from this link – https://we.tl/t-GXFScb9USG
Notwithstanding the pandemic generated national lockdown, the activists and intelectuals associated with AIFRRTE took up a vigorous public campaign in solidarity with Prof. Anand Teltumbde. Initiating the press-conference, AIFRTE Organising Secretary Dr Vikas Gupta informed that keeping in view the ongoing nationwide lockdown, a massive social media and online campaign has been initiated by AIFRTE in support of Prof Anand Teltumbde. This includes an online petition signed by more than 2000 persons including leading intellectuals; twitter messages shared by more than 15,000 persons including many celebrities; and a hunger strike by nearly 45 people in the country on 6th April (Annexure 2). On humanitarian grounds under covid-19 Pandemic, and given the questionable charges against him, AIFRTE has forwarded a petition signed by almost two thousand citizens to the President and the Chief justice of India to stop Prof. Teltumbde’s arrest and further to drop the ill-conceived case against him while also appealing to the Prime Minister and the Central Home Minister to issue instructions to the concerned authorities accordingly. Several organisations from Punjab also expressed solidarity with Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha (Annexure 3).
The conference was addressed by Prof. Jagmohan Singh (Ludhiana, Punjab), Chairperson, AIFRTE; Prof. G. Haragopal (Telungana), Presidium Member of AIFRTE (in absentia, statement in Annexure 1); Prof. Madhu Prasad (Delhi University, Spokes Person, AIFRTE( in absentia, statement in Annexure 1); Prof. K. Chakradhar Rao (Hyderabad), Member, Presidium, AIFRTE; Prof. Anil Sadgopal (Bhopal/former Dean, Faculty of Education, DU), Member, Presidium, AIFRTE; Sh. Ramesh Patnaik (Guntur, Andhra Pradesh), Member, Presidium, AIFRTE; Prof. Nandita Narain (former President, DUTA and FedCUTA, Delhi); Prof. Ganesh Devy (Dharwad, Karnataka), President, Rashtra Sewa Dal (in absentia, statement in Annexure 1); Prof. Hanibabu MT (Delhi University); Prof. Chaman Lal (Delhi), Former Professor, JNU & Chairperson, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Study Group; Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty (Bhubaneswar), Former Professor, Delhi University and Council for Social Development; and others.
The speakers highlighted that the state action against Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha is part of a larger pattern of state assault on the democratic rights and liberties of the people and on principles of equity and justice that lie at the very foundation of our republic. They underlined the need for all democratic and progressive forces to come together and welcomed their joint action in this campaign as a positive sign. They underlined that the case against Anand Teltumbde is not based on any information or documentation found in his possession. It relies only on reference to someone referred to as Anand in a letter found on the computer of Rona Wilson. The veracity of the documents found on the computer are themselves in doubt as experts have discovered the possibility of remote access to and planting of documents in the said computer. As such any documents sourced from this computer can hardly be treated as ‘evidence’.
The panellists underlined that Prof. Teltumbde is not merely a member of the family of Dr B.R. Ambedkar but also a renowned academician and a leading civil liberties activist. His theoretical and senior managerial contribution to the development of the IT sector and the Oil and Gas sector [and] in India is widely recognized and he has received several prestigious awards for his writing and work in these areas.
AIFRTE firmly believes that the case filed against him under the draconian UAPA which allows for indefinite incarceration without trial, is motivated with the intention of silencing a significant critical voice against anti-democratic policies and practices of the government. This includes Prof. Teltumbde’s stand against the NEP 2020 as it is against the core features of Indian Constitution including reservation and social justice. It is an outrageous attempt to harass a leading figure in the civil liberties movement although it claims to have ‘discovered’ his links with banned Maoist Organisations. This is even more shocking as Prof. Teltumbde is a consistent adherent to principles of non-violence and has at no point in his prominent role in the democratic movement in defence of civil liberties ever participated in, or given support to, violent or unlawful methods of struggle.
Today in the grip of the deadly Corona Virus pandemic, when governments are releasing convicts and under trials on parole because overcrowded prisons present a grave threat, it is appalling that an innocent person and one who is recognized as a significant contributor to the country’s development should be denied anticipatory bail. Prof. Teltumbde is 68 years and a chronic asthmatic and hence is in the highest target category threatened with the Novel Corona virus.
Please visit the following web-page for further details about Prof. Teltumbde; the concocted Police Plot; AIFRTE’s online petition at change.org in various languages; solidarity campaign as well as AIFRTE’s appeals to the CJI and the President of India [etc].
With thanks and regards.
Prof. Jagmohan Singh Dr. Vikas Gupta
(Chairperson, AIFRTE) (Organizing Secretary, AIFRTE)