“I am travelling back from Kochi to Bombay in a hurry because I want to move the Bombay High Court against the rejection of my anticipatory bail plea by the Pune Sessions Court”, Dr. Anand Teltumbde told this correspondent over the phone last night.
He sounded apprehensive about being arrested by the Pune Police which had all this while been trying to delay the anticipatory bail hearing in the Sessions Court so that his protection period from arrest (which the Supreme Court granted for four weeks in January 14 Order and which was supposed to expire on February 11) is over.
“In multiple platforms, I have vigorously defended my innocence and explained in threadbare detail why all the charges against me are concocted and blatantly false, but if the police still decide to have my way, I am determined to fight these vicious canards till the end”, he had said.
The renowned Dalit scholar and democratic rights activist’s apprehensions turned out to be correct as he was arrested by a team of Pune police led by one Inspector Indulkar at 3.30 am today from Mumbai airport when he landed from Kochi.
When National Herald spoke to Indulkar, he said that the arrest was directed by Shivaji Pawar, Joint Commissioner of Police, Pune because the Sessions Court by its 1 February Order had rejected his anticipatory bail plea. He said he had no idea about the Supreme Court’s Order, and was only following directions.
Special UAPA judge Kishor D Vadane observed on Friday, “Prima facie, there is sufficient material collected by the investigating officer (IO) to show involvement of the accused (Teltumbde) in the alleged commission of the offence. Investigation… is at a very crucial stage and it appears custodial interrogation of the applicant-accused is necessary for the grounds mentioned in the IO’s written submission.
One of Teltumbde’s lawyers pointed out that Supreme Court had granted him four weeks’ protection to move for pre-arrest bail. “We have nine days to move the higher court,” the lawyer said.
On January 14, the SC had declined a plea to quash the FIR against Teltumbde, a senior academic with a management institute in Goa. He had challenged the Bombay HC order. The SC had given Teltumbde four weeks to approach the competent authority, following which he had filed the anticipatory bail plea in the Pune court on January 18.
Judge Kishore Vadane had heard arguments for and against the plea on January 30 and 31, and reserved the order for Friday.
On Thursday, prosecutor Pawar had given two envelopes to the special court containing additional evidence against Teltumbde, apart from five seized documents — a part of the chargesheet filed by police that mention him as ‘Comrade Anand’, ‘Anand’ or ‘Anant T’. His counsel, Rohan Nahar, had argued that the state had no evidence apart from the IO’s opinion that the person named was Anand Teltumbde.
“They (the police) have presented concocted theories since day one. These theories have not an iota of truth in them and will never be proved,” he says.
But the intention was never to prove a case against me or any of the 14 others named in the FIR by the police, he says. “One can see it in the way the police have gone on with a witch-hunt against other activists and me. A multi-state police action was launched against us. Our houses were raided, frenzy was whipped across the nation. And all this was done without bringing on record a single piece of substantive evidence against me or anyone,” he said. “Me and my wife went to the police multiple times and asked them to probe us to the hilt, but they did nothing except plant canards against us in the media”, he said in an anguished tone.
The case against Prof Teltumbde
According to a report in Huffington Post India, “there is no evidence to link Teltumbde, who is Dalit, to the Elgar Parishad, a Dalit platform that the police claims is a Maoist front, and a trip to Paris — which the police claims was taken at the behest of the CPI(Maoist) — was organised and paid for by an established university, which supported Teltumbde’s travel to France.
The letters produced by the police contain a vague allusion to a widely discredited, and scarcely believable, plot to supposedly assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the past, supposed plots to kill Modi have been used to justify the worst excesses of the Indian state, including the the extra-judicial execution of four people, including a 19 year-old girl called Ishrat Jehan, by the Gujarat police in 2004. Current BJP President, and Modi’s right-hand man Amit Shah was jailed for a few months in relation to the illegal killings before he was let off.
Of the five letters, one is addressed to “Comrade A”. The Pune police say this refers to Teltumbde, but have provided no evidence to support their belief.
HuffPost India reviewed all five letters, the police affidavit against Teltumbde in the Bombay High Court, and spoke to policemen working on the case, to find the police had nothing to support their contention that Teltumbde was — in fact — the “Comrade A” or “Anand”, mentioned in the letters.
The Pune police first produced the letters, and raised the spectre of an assassination plot, in June 2018, when they arrested five noted civil liberties activists including noted lawyer Surendra Gadling. At the time, the authenticity of the letters was contested by several noted activists.
“There is a clear pattern here that stretches all the way back to the encounter killing of Ishrat Jehan,” Teltumbde had told HuffPost India in an interview at the time. “This drama has been enacted before.”
Senior Advocate Mihir Desai, Teltumbde’s lawyer in the Bombay High Court, said he and his team are pulling out all stops to move the Supreme Court at the earliest, since the Pune Police’s action is in gross violation and contempt of the apex court’s Order.