Arrested on Ambedkar’s birthday, released on Constitution Day: Anand Teltumbde’s ordeal in ‘fakest’ case
Significantly, Teltumbde was granted bail on ‘merit’, which means no prima facie case was made out against him. The SC reaffirmed the Bombay High Court order to grant him bail
Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi on this Constitution Day insisted that fulfilling fundamental duties should be the “first priority of citizens to take the nation to greater heights”—yes, the Prime Minister chose to emphasise on citizens’ duties rather than citizens’ rights—Dalit scholar and activist Anand Teltumbde was preparing to walk out to freedom from Taloja jail in Maharashtra after two and a half years of ‘wrongful’ incarceration.
The Constitution of India lists freedom as a Fundamental Right. The Supreme Court has time and again underlined that ‘bail, not jail’ must be the thumb rule. Ironically, Modi was addressing the Constitution Day event at the Supreme Court on Saturday when he emphasised on fundamental duties for citizens.
Teltumbde had been granted bail first by the Bombay High Court and reaffirmed by the Supreme Court that threw out NIA’s appeal against the bail.
After coming out of jail, Teltumbde said, “I am happy at being released from prison after 31 months. It is obvious, but the sad thing is that this is the fakest case and it put us behind bars for years.”
Significantly, Teltumbde was granted bail on ‘merit’, which means no prima facie case was made out against him.
The NIA also tried to link Anand Teltumbde with his younger brother Milind Teltumbde—a Maoist leader who died in an encounter in 2021—but could not produce evidence in the court.
After Sudha Bharadwaj and poet Varvara Rao, Anand Teltumbde is the third accused in the Elgar Parishad case who has been granted bail.
While ‘revolutionary poet’ Varavara Rao is currently out on bail on health grounds, lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj is out on regular bail. She has restarted law practice after spending three years in prison.
Teltumbde’s friend and journalist-activist Gautam Navlakha was also arrested under the UAPA in the Elgar Parishad case and has been put under house arrest on health grounds in Mumbai.
Journalists, human rights activists, filmmakers, and people from all walks of life celebrated Teltumbde’s release.
Congress leader and Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani called Teltumbde a true inheritor of Ambedkar’s legacy.
Filmmaker Hansal Mehta said he finally extricated from the travesty. Celebrating Teltumbde’s release, PUCL general secretary Kavita Shrivastav pointed out he was arrested on Ambedkar’s birthday and released on Constitution Day.
It is worth recalling here that the Elgar Parishad Case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on 31 December 2017.
Organised every year on 31 December to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon (wherein a regiment of Mahar Dalits, serving in the British Army defeated the Peshwas army in 1818), the Elgar Parishad holds cultural programmes.
According to Pune police, the speech made by intellectuals, social activists, and writers triggered violence on 1 January 2018 near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial on the outskirts of the western Maharashtra city.
Pune Police had also claimed that the conclave was organised by “some persons” with alleged Maoist links. An FIR was lodged by Pune Police on 8 January 2018 under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Two years later in 2020, the case was handed over to the NIA.