28, Jan 2019 | CJP team
A collection of academics, experts and activists has written to President of India Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling for the charges against academic and activist Dr. Anand Teltumbde to be dropped, and seeking the release of the ten human rights activists who are currently in jail.
The letter lists Dr. Teltumbde’s many credentials, including his position as Executive Director of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd., current position as Senior Professor and Chair of Big Data Analytics at the Goa Institute of Management, his 26 books and his column at Economic and Political Weekly. It calls him “a noted scholar of caste-class and public policy issues, public intellectual and human rights activist,” and says that the “charges against him are patently fabricated”. It highlights his role as “a guiding force in the movement for accessible education.”
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The letter has been written by the Organizing Committee for the Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Memorial Lecture (SFU/UBC), including Chinmoy Banerjee and Harinder Mahil of the Dr. Hari Sharma Foundation, Jai Birdi of the Chetna Association of Canada, Samir Gandesha of the Simon Fraser University, as well as Ajay Bhardwaj, Jessica Main and others from the University of British Columbia. Other Canadian organisations are also signatories, including India Civil Watch Canada (ICW Canada), South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD), CERAS Montreal, and Democracy, Equality and Secularism in South Asian Winnipeg (DESSA). The letter notes that Dr. Teltumbde has “travelled extensively to lecture” on Dr. B. R. Ambedkar “and the Dalit struggle,” and was invited in this capacity by the Dr. Ambedkar Memorial Lecture Committee; he lectured in several Canadian cities in 2016.
The letter outlines the events leading up to the current charges against Dr. Teltumbde, noting that the Pune Police raided his home in his absence, without notice, on August 28, 2018, even as simultaneously, other raids took place on the homes of others, including lawyers and civil rights activists, in other cities. It highlights that these raids “follow from the organization of a peaceful public meeting on 31st December 2017, co-organized by retired Supreme Court Justice P. B. Sawant and retired justice B. G. Kolshe Patil of the Bombay High Court, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Last Anglo- Maratha battle, which took place at Bhima-Koregaon, Maharashtra, India, where large numbers of Dalit soldiers were martyred,” highlighting that the meeting “drew attention to the communal and casteist policies of the BJP.”
The letter notes that although Dr. Teltumbde was invited for a planning meeting for the public meeting, he “attended neither the planning meeting nor the public meeting.” It states, “The charge against the others arrested and that facing Dr. Teltumbde is that they collaborated with Maoists and that the public meeting was funded by Maoists. For these charges there is not a shred of credible evidence. The police have also concocted a conspiracy to assassinate the Prime Minister implicating these dissident intellectuals and defenders of human rights.”
The letter appeals to the Indian government, “in the name of justice, democratic freedom, and the rule of law,” to unconditionally drop the charges against Dr. Teltumbde and unconditionally free the other human rights activists. It may be read here: