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Note

Targeting Prof Teltumbde

AIFRTE

Justice P B Sawant, retired judge of the Supreme Court and Justice B G Kolshe-Patil, ex-judge of the Bombay High Court invited activists and progressive intellectuals to the Elgar Parishad on 31 December 2017 at Shaniwarwada to mobilise people against the communal and casteist policies of the NDA government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). More than 250 organisations joined, including some Maratha organisations who had never before aligned politically with the Dalits. This alarmed the power obsessed BJP, which responded by commissioning its agent provocateurs, Milind Ekbote of Samastha Hindutva Aghadi and Sambhaji Bhide of Shiv Chhatrapati Pratishan, to create a rift between Dalits and Marathas.

At the end of the Conference, participants took an oath not to vote for the BJP and to protect the constitution of India. The entire conference was video-recorded by the police as well as by the organisers. Nothing untoward took place at the conference and all the delegates dispersed peacefully.

On 1 January, when Dalits congregated at Bhima-Koregaon, the Hindutva goons mounted a planned attack pelting stones from the terraces of houses lining the road, beating people and burning stalls. The police merely looked on, establishing the administration's complicity. Rumours that mischief was planned were widespread; among common people, but the administration had feigned ignorance and allowed riots to happen. WhatsApp messages showed saffron flag bearers shouting slogans in the name of Ekbote and Bhide chasing and beating the Dalits who were caught unawares.

On 8 January, one Tushar Damgade, an Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) functionary and a disciple of Sambhaji Bhide, filed an FIR naming Kabir Kala Manch activists for organising the Elgar Parishad claiming that inflammatory speeches caused the violence on 1 January.

Nine days after the conference, the police began working according to this scripted plan. They raided houses of specific people and insinuated that Maoists had funded and organised the Parishad, ignoring the public statements by Justice Kolshe-Patil and in the chargesheet attached a .statement attributed to Justice Sawant, which he has publicly denied.

Finally, police claimed that there was a plot to carry out a "Rajiv Gandhi style" assassination of Prime Minister Narendra Modi! These fabrications have allowed the police to apply the dreaded UAPA which leaves no defence for the arrested who can be incarcerated for years without evidence. It is a perfect vehicle for the police, acting at the behest of their political bosses, to claim knowledge of fabricated "crimes".

Under the circumstances, on 14lh January 2019 the Supreme Court rejected Prof Teltumbde's appeal for quashing the "false" FIR against him filed by the Pune Police, stating that the matter was under investigation and that he could seek pre-arrest bail from the competent court within four weeks.

Coming from the poorest of poor family, Prof Teltumbde has passed through the best institutes in the country with scholastic achievements. It naturally propelled him to take cudgel for the disadvantaged people in the manner possible for his professional jobs. He is currently General Secretary of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) and Presidium Member of All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE), a movement for people's educational rights. There is not an iota of the "unlawful" either in his voluminous writings or his selfless activism. His entire academic career and corporate career of nearly four decades has been an example of integrity of the highest degree.

In the country, when the due process of law itself is a punishment that the police use to the hilt, it is nothing short of capital punishment to an professional-intellectual-activist like Prof Teltumbde.

Frontier
Vol. 51, No.31, Feb 3 - 9, 2019