Teltumbde denies any role in organising Elgar Parishad in Pune, says govt trying to crush dissent
Addressing the media on Monday, Teltumbde called the police action a conspiracy to silence dissenting voices
Civil rights activist Anand Teltumbde, who was recently arrested and subsequently released, has denied any connection with the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune in 2017, and accused the state of trying to crush dissenters by terming them as ‘Urban Naxals’.
Police allege the Elgar Parishad, which was held a day before the Bhima Koregaon violence broke out on January 1, 2018, received funding from Maoist organisations and instigated the violence.
Addressing the media on Monday, Teltumbde called the police action a conspiracy to silence dissenting voices.
“It is in public knowledge that the Elgar Parishad was organised by two former judges and not by me. I was attending a wedding of my friend’s son in Pune on December 31 (2017) and had attended the Elgar Parishad for hardly five minutes,” said Teltumbde. “In fact, I proceeded to Goa from there and was not even aware of the January 1 (2018) violence,” he added.
Teltumbde is charged as an accused in the Bhima-Koregaon riots case and accused of having Maoist links.
On Saturday morning, the Pune Police hastily arrested Teltumbde and produced him before a Pune court. The court, however, termed the police action as illegal and in contempt of the Supreme Court (SC) order, which had granted Teltumbde freedom from arrest till February 11. The Dalit scholar was immediately set free.
Teltumbde alleged that ‘Urban Naxal’ was a term coined by the state government to defame critics and silence dissenting voices. “We are just used as proxies by the government since they want to crush all those who speak on behalf of the people against their wrong policies. This is just to harass prominent people who speak against the government,” he said.
Teltumbde is a prolific writer who specialises in issues faced by the Dalit community. He is an alumnus of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad and was a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur. He is regularly invited by institutions around the world to address students. “After my arrest, there were demonstrations in various universities in Canada and America. Many of my students and even academicians protested against this move. However, unlike in the past, the present government does not seem to be swayed by public opinion and is still justifying the action,” said Teltumbde.
Democracy at risk in the country: Pune civil rights activists
Civil and human rights activists in Pune on Sunday said there is an imminent threat to democracy by the misuse of state machinery to witch-hunt writers, social workers, civil liberty workers and citizens who are raising their voice against dictatorial tendencies of the state.
The civil rights organisation will also conduct a public meeting to create awareness about the alleged illegal arrests in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. The meeting is meant to oppose the arrest of activists and lawyers in the case and the alleged undeclared emergency of the state against the people raising their voices against it.
The meeting will take place on February 7 at Rashtra Seva Dal Campus on Sinhagad road at 6 pm. The programme will be organised under the banner of the Lokshahi Utsav Samiti and will be titled ‘Step of fearlessness: in opposition to undeclared emergency’.
The meeting will be addressed by Kavita Srivastava, national secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), professor Nitish Navsagare, an activist working for the rights of Dalits and Adivasis, professor Anjali Maydeo Ambedkar,of Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh and advocate Kavita Srivastava
Women rights and PUCL activist Manisha Gupte alleged that real culprits behind Bhima Koregaon violence were let off by the state and civil rights activists were being targeted. She said, “Anand Teltumbde’s arrest must be seen from the perspective of silencing the critics by the government. India is sliding towards lawlessness with utter disregard and disrespect towards the protection of lives of Dalits, minorities, and tribals.”
Akash Sable, one of the organisers of Elgar Parishad and programme co-ordinator appealed to the citizens to speak out against violation of their democratic rights.
The civil rights organisations under the banner of Lokshahi Utsav Samiti have also organised ‘Democracy Festival’ from February 26-30.