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Human rights defender Anand Teltumbde facing imminent arrest

Status: 
Imminent Risk of Arrest
About the situation

On 14 April 2020, human rights defender Anand Teltumbde surrendered to the National Investigation Agency in Mumbai.

On 8 April 2020, the Supreme Court of India granted a period of one week for human rights defenders Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha to surrender in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case.

Human rights defender and scholar Anand Teltumbde is facing the threat of imminent arrest, depending on the outcome of an anticipatory bail application to the Bombay High Court. He is seeking relief against false charges and judicial persecution against him by the Maharashtra police. If the court denies his request, Anand Teltumbde will be compelled to appeal his case before the Supreme Court of India.

About Anand Teltumbde

Anand TeltumbdeAnand Teltumbde is a human rights defender, an internationally renowned scholar, and a leading public intellectual in India. He has written extensively on Dalit rights and the anti-caste movement in India. He is currently a Senior Professor and Chair of Big Data Analytics at the Goa Institute of Management (GIM), as well as a columnist at the Economic and Political Weekly (a prominent social science journal in India), and is actively involved in several organisations, including the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights and the All India Forum for Right to Education.

14 April 2020
Anand Teltumbde surrenders before National Investigation Agency

On 14 April 2020, human rights defender Anand Teltumbde surrendered to the National Investigation Agency in Mumbai.

This was in response to an order issued by the Supreme Court on 8 April for the defender to surrender in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case within one week.

11 April 2020
Human rights defenders Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha facing imminent arrest

On 8 April 2020, the Supreme Court of India granted a period of one week for human rights defenders Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha to surrender in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. The human rights defenders and nine other human rights defenders currently in jail stand falsely accused of being responsible for violence that broke out in Bhima Koregaon on 1 January 2018. The Supreme Court has previously rejected the anticipatory bail applications filed by Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha. The latest order to surrender comes despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which carries specific risks to prison inmates, and especially for the two human rights defenders given their age and serious medical conditions.

Download the Urgent Appeal

Anand Teltumbde is an internationally renowned scholar and a leading public intellectual in India. He has written extensively on Dalit rights and the anti-caste movement in India. He is currently a Senior Professor and Chair of Big Data Analytics at the Goa Institute of Management (GIM), as well as a former columnist at the prominent social science journal The Economic and Political Weekly. He is actively involved in several organisations, including the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights and the All India Forum for Right to Education.

Gautam Navlakha is a human rights defender and journalist. He was the Secretary of the People’s Union for Democratic Rights, a non-governmental organisation committed to legally defending civil liberties and democratic rights by promoting and protecting fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India. He has also served as the convener of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir.

On 17 March 2020, the Supreme Court of India rejected the anticipatory bail applications of Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha. Anticipatory bail is commonly used as a safeguard for individuals accused of, or anticipating arrest for, non-bailable offences. The decision is a major setback in a lengthy struggle for protection from arrest on fabricated charges. Nine other prominent human rights defenders Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao, Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, and Rona Wilson have been in jail for over a year under the regressive Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), linked to the same case. Their bail applications have been routinely delayed and denied.

Following the Supreme Court order on 17 March, Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha were given three weeks to surrender. On 8 April, the court further extended this period by a week. In extending the period, the Court recognized that the defenders had been granted protection from arrest for a lengthy period. The decision however failed to consider the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the imminent risk to the two human rights defenders’ health and safety. Both human rights defenders are over 65, a high risk age group for COVID-19, and have serious medical conditions including chronic asthma and spondylitis in Anand Teltumbde’s case. The Supreme Court decision is alarming, in a context of global and national moves to reduce congestion in prisons, and the Supreme Court of India’s own directives in this regard. The order to surrender does not, however, compel an arrest. The police, in the current context and taking into account the health considerations of the defenders, can refrain from making the arrest.

Front Line Defenders published an appeal condemning the arrest of the ten human rights defenders linked to the Bhima Koregan case in August 2018 and a further appeal on the threat of arrest facing Anand Teltumbde in April 2019. It also raised concerns against the transfer of the investigation to the National Investigation Agency in January 2020. The organisation saw this as a deliberate effort to undermine attempts by the newly elected State Government in Maharashtra to launch a fresh investigation, including into the targetting of human rights defenders linked to the case.

Front Line Defenders believes that the charges against Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha are a direct reprisal for their peaceful human rights work on behalf of the most marginalized communities. Criminalizing the defenders is aimed at punishing and deterring their work and that of other human rights defenders in the country. Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned about the two defenders and about those currently in jail in connection with the Bhima Koregan case. It strongly condemns the ongoing judicial harassment of Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha especially in a climate of serious threats to their health and safety in prison.

19 April 2019
Human rights defender Anand Teltumbde facing imminent arrest

Human rights defender and scholar Anand Teltumbde is facing the threat of imminent arrest, depending on the outcome of an anticipatory bail application to the Bombay High Court. He is seeking relief against false charges and judicial persecution against him by the Maharashtra police. If the court denies his request, Anand Teltumbde will be compelled to appeal his case before the Supreme Court of India.

Download the Urgent Appeal

Anand Teltumbde is a human rights defender, an internationally renowned scholar, and a leading public intellectual in India. He has written extensively on Dalit rights and the anti-caste movement in India. He is currently a Senior Professor and Chair of Big Data Analytics at the Goa Institute of Management (GIM), as well as a columnist at the Economic and Political Weekly (a prominent social science journal in India), and is actively involved in several organisations, including the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights and the All India Forum for Right to Education.

The human rights defender is facing fabricated charges of being associated with the outlawed Communist Party of India, plotting the assassination of the Prime Minister, and of instigating violence that broke out in Bhima-Koregaon on 1 January 2018 during celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the Dalit victory over the Peshwas (upper caste rulers) in the Battle of Koregaon. In June and August 2018, 10 human rights defenders (Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautham Navlakha, Varavara Rao, Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, and Rona Wilson) were arrested based on false charges in what are known as the Bhima Koregan cases, nine of whom remain in police custody to date.

In October 2018, the Pune Police filed a First Information Report (FIR) alleging that eight activists, including Anand Teltumbde, were involved in inciting the violence in Bhima-Koregaon. The police have since booked the human rights defender under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), which makes it extremely difficult for the accused to obtain bail. On 21 December 2018, the Bombay High Court issued an order to dismiss Anand Teltumbde’s plea to quash the FIR against him. The human rights defender then submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court, which on 14 January 2019 also rejected his plea, but granted him interim protection from arrest until 11 February 2019, allowing him to approach a competent court to seek anticipatory bail before that date.

On 1 February 2019, Anand Teltumbde’s application for anticipatory bail, which is commonly used as a safeguard for individuals accused of or anticipating arrest for non-bailable offences, was rejected by the Pune District Court. At around 3.30am the following day, the human rights defender was arrested by the Pune Police at Mumbai airport, but was released several hours later after a Special Court in Pune had ruled that his arrest was illegal as it contradicted the Supreme Court order that had granted him protection from arrest until 11 February.

On 11 February, the Bombay High Court extended Anand Teltumbde’s interim protection period until 22 February, the scheduled date for the next hearing of his plea for anticipatory bail. The date of the hearing has since been postponed multiple times on 27 February, 6 March, 12 March, 22 March, 2 April, and 16 April. The bail application hearing is now scheduled for 7 June 2019.

Anand Teltumbde’s home was searched by the Maharashtra police on 28 August 2018 as part of a multi-city crackdown against human rights defenders alleged to have Maoists links and who were falsely accused of being responsible for the violence at Bhima-Koregaon.

The charges against Anand Teltumbde are based on letters that only mentioned his first name or initials. No other substantial evidence has been produced by the police. The human rights defender was not present at Bhima-Koregaon when the violence broke out on 1 January 2018. That day, Anand Teltumbde had been in Pune for the wedding of a friend and left around 12.40pm to return to his home in Goa.

Front Line Defenders has previously issued an urgent appeal on five other human rights defenders who have also been falsely implicated in the Bhima-Koregaon case and were arrested on 28 August 2018, namely, Sudha Bhardwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha and Arun Ferreira.

Front Line Defenders believes that the charges against Anand Teltumbde are an effort to slander the defender in order to silence him. Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned about and condemns the ongoing judicial harassment of Anand Teltumbde and recognises it as part of an effort to clamp down on dissent, specifically against human rights defenders fighting for Dalit rights in India.