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'What happened to me can happen to anyone'

January 21, 2019 11:22 IST

'I cannot conceive of any reason than my unsparing criticism of government policies that the government picked me to send a message to many who dare to take it on.'

Author and scholar Professor Anand Teltumbde is one of the activists charged with sedition in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case.

Professor Teltumbde's home in Goa was raided by the Pune police even though he did not even attend the event at Elgar Parishad on December 31, 2017.

Several academics and public intellectuals are demanding that the case against Professor Teltumbde be quashed.

The police, however, claims to have 'incriminating evidence' against Professor Teltumbde, but he terms the claim as "hilarious".

"I have already listed out all the evidence that they produced in their affidavit before the high court. The court had specifically asked them to say all that they had to say against me and that is what they submitted. If one has to fabricate, there is no end to do that," Professor Teltumbde, below, tells Rediff.com's Syed Fridaus Ashraf in an e-mail interview.

 

One wonders why a scholar of your repute, the author of books like Republic of Caste, and a management teacher in Goa, was linked to the Bhima-Koregaon violence case.
More surprisingly, you are accused of planning to assassinate the prime minister.

Fortunately, they have not implicated me in the charge of assassination, etc. It was a surprise to me too when I learnt from the director of my institute on August 28 that the Pune police raided my institute campus and were looking for me.

Later, he called me and informed that before he reached the campus, they had opened our house. When my colleagues questioned them about a warrant, they were rudely dismissed.

It was only on August 31, when Additional Director General of Police Paramjit Singh, inter alia, read out a letter purportedly recovered from one of the accused person's computer, and addressed to 'Com Anand' by someone, that I sensed what kind of charge they were levelling against me.

Obviously, it was a low intellect job and reflected that they thought I was some small-time lecturer in some college. The letter spoke of a meeting in Paris. It was actually an academic conference organised by the American University of Paris.

It claimed that the Maoist party paid money to organisers to invite me there. Even a third class university in India will not have such deals. It picked up names from the Web site, and said that Professor Etienne Balibar, one of the greatest living Marxist scholars, is arranged to interview me (sic).

The names of Professors Shailaja Paik and Anupama Rao with prefix 'com' were also mentioned saying they will invite me to their universities as guest lecturers.

The poor scriptwriter did not know that I have been a CEO who travelled abroad half a dozen times every year; as a scholar I attended dozens of international conferences to chair sessions, to deliver key notes; as a scholar of caste-class movements, I have been invited by every notable university in the world, but it has not been possible for me to accept them.

The climax of this episode is the angry reactions of the organiser and the complaint by the provost of the university to the French embassy against these canards by the Indian police, Professor Balibar's furious reaction and complaint to the French embassy.

This is enough to conclusively prove that all the 'letters' were fabricated and fake as experts like the executive director of the Institute of Conflict Management, publicly concluded.

I rather wanted to file a defamation suit against Paramjit Singh for defaming me and wrote a letter to the Maharashtra government for permission as per the procedure, but there is no response till today.

The other letters are perhaps more hilarious. One written to someone by someone, in which reference comes that I would coordinate the activities of the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle. This has been refuted by a letter by the founding students when they learnt of it in newspapers.

I was then a professor of business management at Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur. If I had such a desire and prowess to organise students, I could try it in my own IIT and not go for the farthest IIT, more than 2,000 km away.

The second letter similarly written by someone to someone in which a reference is made to me (Anand is coolly taken as me!) praising that I made a good suggestion in the Anuradha Ghandy Memorial Committee. Now, this trust and committee existed for almost a decade as a registered trust, with its PAN, and bank account.

But the police would project it as Maoist since Anuradha Ghandy was a CC (central committee) member of the Maoist party (as though she was born as such) and mislead the court.

The third letter again written by someone to someone had a reference to me (Anand) that I coordinated fact finding into Gadchiroli encounters.

As a CPDR (Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights) general secretary I should have done that, but, as a matter of fact, being physically at a distant place, initially at Kharagpur and then Goa, I could not even attend the CPDR meetings, leave alone coordinate its activities or events.

The last one is a scribbling wherein five-six names and some figures are given and one of the lines says 'Anand T 90T Surendra (through Milind)'. It is interpreted by the police as I have been paid Rs 90,000. I am told that such scribbling is not acceptable as evidence.

But beyond legality, it is ridiculous that someone will pay me such an amount. This kind of amount I paid as monthly income tax for years.

These are all the charges at least the police produced in their affidavit to the high court.

I cannot conceive of any reason than my unsparing criticism of government policies that the government picked me to send a message to many who dare to take it on.

But they have clearly misconceived the plot.

After all, how would the police know what IIM (Indian Institute of Management) Ahmedabad is, what it takes to become a CEO of a holding company, what it takes to get a rare PhD in cybernetics and being honoured by a university with honorary DLitt, what it means to being invited by IITs, and GIMs.

There is a petition in your favour on petition.org. Is that helping you in any way?

In a democracy, the system is expected to be sensitive to public opinion. Unfortunately, that has never been the forte of India.

When my story leaked to people, they were outraged. Generally, people would not know such things. But when they learnt the truth, they were outraged. And this outrage is all over the globe.

Signature campaigns are the usual mode of expressing your outrage. The entire social media is replete with reactions.

At least my mission has been to help people understand the environment they lived in. My story is doing that in a more effective way.

The political repercussions of it perhaps may be seen in the 2019 elections when the middle classes, which tends to be enamoured with the Bharatiya Janata Party, may think twice.

Because what happened to me can happen to anyone of them. I received mails from many such strangers saying that they were supporters of the BJP, but now they were angry.

You have been trying to get this case quashed since August, but the Pune police claims they found incriminating evidence against you while raiding the homes of other accused.
Can you clarify whether your name really came up in investigations or is the police just making up a story?

I have already listed out all the evidence that they produced in their affidavit before the high court.

The court had specifically asked them to say all that they had to say against me and that is what they submitted.

If one has to fabricate, there is no end to do that.

As an intellectual do you feel this is not what Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar envisioned when he framed the Constitution, that anyone can be charged with such dangerous acts like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act?

Babasaheb Ambedkar did say in the Rajya Sabha that the demons occupied the temple (Constitution) that the Constituent Assembly be built before the gods could be installed.

And hence he had said that he would be the first person to burn it out.

If he had been alive, he would have been charged under sedition and probably UAPA because he was planning (or conspiring) to destabilise the government by creating a strong Opposition party.

You were invited to the Bhima-Koregaon event by Justice P B Sawant and Justice B G Kolse-Patil. Is that the only 'crime' of yours, even though you did not attend the event?

I was invited by someone from Justice Sawant's home and thereafter personally by Justice Kolse-Patil for the initial meeting as they did to all the progressive people in Maharashtra.

When I regretted due to academic pressure, he wanted me to be associated with it as a convener which I happily accepted.

I did not know whatever transpired until much later. I knew they formed an organising committee of 250-odd organisations, planned a big event on December 31, 2017, as Elgar Parishad, and coined a slogan to bury the 'new Peshwai', a metaphor for BJP rule.

I then learnt that they propagated that the Bhima-Koregaon battle was won by Mahar soldiers to avenge their casteist oppression by the Peshwas.

I was uncomfortable with it because I thought that instead of building a broader unity of people sans caste, it might create identitarian consciousness in people.

We had to go to Pune to attend a marriage of my friend's son (who lives in Switzerland) on December 31. If I was involved in any manner, I would have certainly stayed on for the conference, but we returned just after meeting our relations -- Anjali Ambedkar and Sujat Ambedkar -- at around 1 pm.

These are the hard facts. As a matter of fact, I did not know what transpired in Elgar the Parishad and even on January 1, 2018, when the Dalits were attacked, until that afternoon as could be seen from the correspondence between (journalist) Siddharth Varadrajan and me in relation to the article he published on The Wire on January 2.

It provoked Dalits to harshly react against me. Is that the behaviour of one in business to provoke Dalits or the organiser of the Elgar Parishad?

Has it become a norm that as you speak about Dalits rights, you have become a Maoist for the State?

Surely, that appears to be the case. In the wake of Khairlanji protests, a similar insinuation was made that all those spontaneous protests were Maoist sponsored.

It is repeating on a bigger scale in the BJP regime.

Tushar Damgude, who filed the FIR in the Bhima-Koregaon case, alleges that Marxist intellectuals want to bring a 'caste war' in India and destabilise the country as the class war could not succeed.

Who is a Marxist intellectual? Like they say liberal in the US means Marxist; anyone speaking of people's rights becomes a Marxist.

Am I a Marxist? Ask Marxists, they would say I am an Ambedkarite.

Ask Ambedkarites, some of them may say I am a Marxist.

If they ask me, I have publicly answered it repeatedly, written in my books, that I am not any 'ist'. I explained rather how it is detrimental in present times to have these identities.

It is not to say that I do not respect Babasaheb Ambedkar or Karl Marx and many such greats who stood on the side of the people.

But even they had to work in the context of their time and space. Those parameters earlier were fairly constant.

Today, with the rapid pace of change, they become largely invalidated after a decade or two. It is in this context that we cannot just follow any past isms simply because the contexts are changed.

It is sheer intellectual lethargy that we keep speaking of such things.

Do you feel the Peshwai system in Indian police is being used to harass a Dalit intellectual like you as you have come up in life with great difficulty?

It is unfortunate that the police and politician had a thick nexus. Over the years there has been ideological pollution. The Hindutva forces have consciously worked for that in saffronising institutions.

In the name of law and order and security, which have become holy cows, they can do anything.

Yes, the police have become an instrument of bringing about a Peshwai system, wherein Dalits are being pushed back into the dark hole from where Babasaheb Ambedkar pulled them out.

The police is sure that the Bhima-Koregaon incident is related to a case where there was planning to kill Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi. Why would the police cook up such a story?

Public memory is short, but this trick was successfully played in Gujarat in Modi's times to consolidate his hold on the state.

It may be said to be behind his rise to the top job in the country. Many innocents were scarified to lend legitimacy to the stories. All these are buried in the Gujarat files.

The police use such stories to create a fear psychosis. This story in Bhima-Koregaon is so clumsy that none would believe it, but so far they have had a field day.

I don't think the Maoist ever think of killing an individual. If they do, they are deviating from their ideology.

Murdering individuals as class enemies is called the assassination line, and was shunned long back by the Maoists.

Moreover, no secretive organisation plotting such thing will use such essay-like letters to communicate.

The police believes there is a threat to Indian democracy by the so-called 'Urban Naxals'.

Maoists are holed up somewhere, surrounded by massive security forces, and they do not have the wherewithal to cause a threat to democracy.

The real danger to Indian democracy are the rulers who, in the name of democracy, nation etc assume totalitarian powers to repress dissent.

Democracy is defined by demos (the common people); people are sovereign in a democracy, not the party or leaders, not even the nation -- it is defined by people -- howsoever big a majority the ruler might be commanding.

It is therefore that Ambedkar had problematised the majority in India as a communal majority. It is his profound contribution to the concept of democracy.

Would you like to say anything else from your side?

Nothing in particular. I just pray the Indian people wake up to see the rot that has set in and damage that is done by the rhetoric of nationalism, culture, etc by the Hindutva brigade.

There is nothing like Maoist or Maoism, least of all Urban Maoist. Maoists are the product of an unjust system and police are the mass manufacturers of them.

Incidentally, I have devoted a full chapter to this topic 'Manufacturing Maoists' in my book Republic of Caste.

In other books -- like The Persistence of Caste: The Khairlanji Murders and India's Hidden Apartheid -- also I dwelt on the mechanism of how police excesses make people Maoists.

As regards my being Maoist, the police must read my books -- my introduction to India and Communism by B R Ambedkar or Anti-Imperialism and Annihilation of Castes -- to know how I have been critical of Communists and so-called Marxists. Maoists may be seen as a post-graduation from these basics.

The present dispensation has nearly destroyed India, her spirit, her ethos.

I have criticised the entire construction of the post-independence State in my books, but despite its deficits 'India' of a large majority of Indians survived for the last six decades.

Today, she is completely sapped of her modernising spirit -- poisoned with communal venom, de-intellectualised, and stuffed with false pride in her bygone past.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf / Rediff.com
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