Published: 01st April 2020
Over 300 IIT alumni, students, profs extend support to soon-to-be-jailed academic Anand Teltumbde
Members of the pan-IIT community - faculty, scientists, researchers, students and alumni issued a joint statement condemning the actions of the state 'in their individual capacities'
In a order that surprised many, activists and scholar, Gautam Navalakha and Anand Teltumbde were directed by the Supreme Court to surrender to the Pune Police within three weeks in connection with the 2018 Bhima Koregaon case. This was on March 16. In about a week's time, the two charged under the UAPA will have to surrender. Coming together in support of Teltumbde, over 300 members of the IIT community across the country have signed a petition demanding the court to reconsider the arrest.
Members of the pan-IIT community - faculty, scientists, researchers, students and alumni issued a joint statement condemning the actions of the state 'in their individual capacities'. "Post rejection of the anticipatory bail application of Dr Teltumbde by the Supreme Court of India on March 16, 2020, he has been given time until April, 6, 2020 to surrender to the police. It is ironic that this has happened despite no concrete evidence that stands scientific standards of scrutiny being presented against Teltumbde so far," the members wrote.
They also pointed out that in the current scenarios with the outbreak of COVID-19, it was dangerous to send a person of Teltumbde's age and health to prison at this point. "The risk to Dr Teltumbde's health, once imprisoned in the midst of the current pandemic, is manifold due to his age and pre-existing medical conditions. In view of this, we, the undersigned, express our solidarity with Teltumbde in our individual capacities and strongly urge the appropriate authorities to uphold the values enshrined in the Constitution of India and re-consider the order for his arrest by April, 6, 2020," the members said.
One of Teltumbde's books
The signatories also pointed out how Teltumbde, who comes from a poor Dalit family fought against all odds to study in eminent institutions such as Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology (VNIT) and IIM, Ahmedabad with great academic achievements and earned his doctoral degree in Cybernetics, "Teltumbde then went on to work as a management professional in the oil industry, where he served for more than 35 years in different roles spanning the entire value chain. He has handled national and well as international projects, and has held senior positions in the industry. During his corporate stint, he had also been visiting faculty at many management institutes in Mumbai and at his alma mater, IIM Ahmedabad," they informed.
Stressing on the fact that the writer has always been known for his integrity, they said, "Currently, he is Senior Professor and Chair of Big Data Analytics at Goa Institute of Management. Throughout his academic and professional career, Teltumbde has displayed an impeccable record with the highest levels of integrity and erudition." The IITians also threw light on the immense work that Teltumbde has contributed to the understanding the caste-class dynamics and his detailed analysis of the state's role in perpetuating violence against the marginalised such as Dalits and the working class, "His analysis of Dr BR Ambedkar is also considered by many as being among the best critical analyses of Ambedkar. He has written more than 27 books, contributed 50 chapters to books edited by eminent authors and written eloquently in popular newspapers, magazines and journals. Teltumbde's writings are essential references for scholars and necessary readings in many universities around the world. He has been frequent invitee at international conferences around the world, reflecting the credibility and stature of his work globally."
Teltumbde has been associated with the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights since 2016 and has since been the general secretary of the organisation, "He is also a presidium member of the All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE) which has 80 member organisations across 22 states in India and has been consistently fighting to aciheve universal education from KG to PG in India. Teltumbde's body of work for the marginalised people of this country has put him in the frontline of public intellectuals who have spoken truth to power, and questioned power in constructive ways," the academics pointed out.
Pointing out the dubiousness and anti-democratic of the UAPA which is what Teltumbde has been charged under, the IITians said that the evidence against the writer can barely even be categorised as evidence. "He has been charged for the Bhima Koregaon case under UAPA on the basis of supposed confiscated digital devices, whose authenticity is yet to be proven as per scientific standards, and which had the risk of being manipulated by the police. There has been no incriminating material that has been found by the police," they stated.
Accusing the state of targeting Teltumbde, the IITians said, "By targeting Teltumbde, who has proved to be an exceptional corporate leader, an erudite scholar and a respected public intellectual with great contribution to Indian democracy, the state is setting a terrible precedent. Out of extreme concern for denial of justice and also for the health and well-being of an ex-professor at IIT, we, the pan-IIT fraternity, extend our solidarity and unequivocal support to Teltumbde."