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'If my mother knew of my arrest, she would have died of shock'

Last updated on: July 31, 2023 11:00 IST
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'After exiting jail, I thought some of my IIM-A classmates would contact me. None did.'
'The case indeed scared people, which perhaps was the objective of the State.'

IMAGE: Anand Teltumbde, accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, following his release from prison. Photograph: PTI Photo

Anand Teltumbde in his corporate life spanning four decades has been an executive director of the Bharat Petroleum Corporation and managing director and CEO of Petronet India Limited.

Shunning the allurements associated with such a corporate career, he chose to accept an offer from IIT-Kharagpur to be a professor at its B-school.

In 2016, he accepted an invitation from the Goa Institute of Management to take charge as senior professor and chair of a new centre he would establish. He started a post-graduate programme in management based on Big Data Analytics there, India's first.

It was in Goa on August 29, 2018 that the police raided Professor Teltumbde's home, accusing him of having a connection to the Elgar Parishad and Bhima Koregaon case.

"If my mother had not died of shock on seeing (brother) Milind's body, she definitely would have died seeing me surrounded by police," Professor Teltumbde tells Senior Contributor Neeta Kolhatkar in the second segment of a three-part must-read interview.


In this entire journey of yours, from arrest to bail, did many people distance themselves from you and your family? Did it come as a shock?

Yes. Oh, I have experienced so much of it to my utter shock.

For instance, we, the alumni of IIM-Ahmedabad, had a WhatsApp group and a close social network.

My younger daughter has also passed out from that institute. Right from my implication in the case, most faculty and students in various IITs and IIMs tried their best to campaign for me.

Most were positive, except for a few.

In her anxiety, my daughter sent some communication to IIM-A alumni. In response to it, one of my classmates, who I considered a balanced person, wrote something in the language used by bhakts, which my daughter didn't like.

In her anger, she asked me to exit the group and I did it instantly.

It was not unusual with MBAs who pragmatically shun controversies. But it was still unexpected from my classmates who knew me so intimately over nearly four decades.

It is a fact that the majority in such institutes are Modi supporters.

But this happened when there was a huge signature campaigns launched in my support by Pan IITs and Pan IIMs, signed by hundreds of faculty, alumni and students including the director of IIM-Ahmedabad, in the wake of my arrest.

After exiting jail, I thought some of those classmates would at least contact me privately and stay in touch. None did.

After my release, many people from across the country and even abroad came over to meet me.

I thought some of my IIM-A classmates would do so, but none did it.

The case indeed scared people, which perhaps was the objective of the State.

With such State propaganda, people do tend to believe that there must be something. Why would the police otherwise arrest a person?

What about your families? Yours and Rama's?

My side of the family, my brothers and their families, are simple and they don't understand all these issues.

They just kept quiet and were sad. I was like a towering figure in my family; nobody would have ever imagined that I would end up going to jail.

I couldn't expect them to do anything for me. I was only worried for my mother.

My brothers, Rama and our daughters told her that I was abroad and that because of the COVID-19 lockdown, I was unable to come.

Rama Teltumbde: She believed us, because in his corporate career Anand used to go abroad very often. Moreover, both our daughters being abroad, she easily believed that he would have gone to see them and got stuck due to the lockdown. This story worked very well during the pandemic.

Anand: We would have phone mulaqats (prisoners can call their families on the telephone) in that period; I took an opportunity to speak with her. I would speak with Rama thrice and once with my mother. She used to be happy. Until I came out on bail, she didn't know. Now, of course, she knows.

Very few know about your mother and her background. She was a farm labourer and how hard she worked.

Yes, it's true. My mother being an unlettered person has been unusual in her intellect, courage and determination.

My father worked in the lime factory and was relatively a sober person.

It was not unusual for women in poor households to supplement the earnings of their husbands. But the contributions of my mother exceed this dictum.

Her hard work knew no bounds. It is with sheer physical labour she has seen eight of us through with good education and culture.

Even Dalits who have written autobiographies and exaggerated their family situations would find it difficult to describe our story.

We were the poorest of the poor, you can't even imagine. We had no assets. (Chokes).

She had confidence, that's all. I was only worried she should not know, because if she got to know of my arrest she would have died of shock and I didn't want that to happen. (Voice cracks).

Rama: Yes, all credit goes to her. She worked hard from morning to evening her entire life. She is a very strong woman.

IMAGE: Rama, whose grandfather is Dr B R Ambedkar, and Anand Teltumbde. Photograph: Neeta Kolhatkar

It was a tough situation for your mother. Pardon me for asking, but with you away in jail and your brother Milind being killed by the police and she had to see his bullet-ridden body. This must have been the hardest moment for her.

Yes, it naturally was. Although all of the family members had reconciled with such an eventuality, but when it actually happened, it would naturally pain them.

I was not around and could not imagine the grief of my mother.

There was a TV in one corner on my floor in the jail. I watched the headlines every morning.

One such morning, breaking news of an encounter near Gadchiroli was reeled off on all channels with added emphasis that a top Maoist leader was one among the dead.

They did not name him, but still a shiver ran through my body that it could be Milind, as the police always projected him so.

My worst fears were confirmed after some hours.

All these years, every time there was news of Maoists being killed in encounters, it would scare us for him.

It must have been the worst moment for your mother.

Naturally. But I would not know it as I was away. When he disappeared, the family had reconciled to the fact that we would never see him again.

The only solace was (clears throat), he wasn't a dacoit, rapist or a criminal.

He decided to sacrifice his life for the service of oppressed people. That was his own decision.

People can take different views of this. For me, that is the ultimate sacrifice one can make.

He had a good job; he had everything and could have lived a comfortable middle class life. He had earned a name and fame too as a trade union leader.

He was reasonably well-read and a thinking person. It was his decision none could influence.

In the early years, my mother would always ask if Milind was keeping well and how he was.

I would tell her not to speak of him; he was living his own life. I always encouraged her to be proud of him. (Chokes. Pauses.)

Do you think one of the reasons the authorities arrested you was because of Milind and his being a Maoist? And you are accused of supporting him?

I don't know.

I am not the only brother to him. We were total eight siblings and all had their independent ways of living. I would not like to speak about the case at all as it is in court.

The authorities allowed you to meet your mother around the time Milind was killed. You were given two days to meet her?

As I said I was most worried about my mother. I wanted to personally console her in her grief.

I moved the court and requested permission to see my mother on the lines it was granted to two of my co-accused.

My plea was rejected by the lower court as was theirs.

In appeal, the high court granted it for two days against my request for 15 days. But it laid down such conditions as though I was a dreaded terrorist.

If my mother had not died of shock on seeing Milind's body, she definitely would have died seeing me surrounded by police.

I was told I could meet my mother only, and not any other person in the family.

I was not permitted even to sleep in the house of my brother, where my mother lived. They were humanly impossible conditions.

Rama: Worse still, he had to stay every night in police custody when he went to meet his 90-year-old mother.

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