Skip to main content

Urban Naxals? Teltumbde, Navlakha, others being 'incarcerated' for political beliefs

Anand Teltumbde
By Radhika Chitkara, Vikas Kumar*
The attempt to browbeat rights activists, Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde, to ‘surrender’ to the National Investigation Agency, amidst a nation-wide lockdown on account of Covid-19, marks a deep and scathing new low in the political history of contemporary India.
For over two years now, the Bhima Koregaon case, as it has come to be known, has been the mainstay for the State resorting to arrests of democratic rights activists, lawyers and journalists across the country – those who have been tirelessly raising issues of grave human rights violations in the dirty war being waged by the State in the forests at the heart of the country.
To arrest these 11 prominent individuals, the government has orchestrated a political conspiracy by relying wholly on the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and its ban provisions to link them with the banned CPI (Maoist) party. Projected as overground or ‘urban Naxals’, each of the accused, including Navlakha and Teltumbde, have been charged of hatching a conspiracy of carrying out a ‘Rajiv Gandhi like incident to end Modi-raj’.
The outrageous allegations against them range from procuring finances and weapons to recruiting cadres for unlawful activities. It bears remembering that the origins of these allegations lay in an entirely unconnected incident: The violence against Dalits at the Elgaar Parishad on January 1, 2018.
The FIRs relating to this violence have been selectively acted upon, such that the perpetrators of the violence, Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, are still at large, while persons unrelated to the event and not named in the FIRs have been arrested and incarcerated for 18-20 months without bail.
None of the original FIRs make out these allegations against the accused, and the case of the police relies wholly on digital documents presented at press conferences, leaked to media houses and divulged in ‘sealed envelopes’ before the courts. Revelations regarding the unauthorized use of the Pegasus software against many of those arrested raises serious doubts on the authenticity of these digital documents.
Gautam Navlakha
Even the Supreme Court, in its dissenting opinion in August 2018, expressed doubts on the impartiality of investigations in the case and called for the constitution of a Special Investigative Team (SIT).
Just when the Maharashtra government decided to institute a SIT to probe into the dubious role of the police in this case in January this year, the Central government decided to hand over the case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), an action that doubly confirms the political nature of this case. 
Those arrested are public minded individuals who have successfully brought to light untold misery being inflicted upon adivasis
The new FIR filed by the NIA mentions as accused the 11 arrested persons and unnamed ‘others’, leaving the possibility of further intimidation and arrests of more activists, journalists and lawyers in the case.
The role of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in furthering the claims of the police against the activists is also evident from the fact that none of the eleven accused have been allowed bail, regular, interim, medical or anticipatory, barring the one time when one of the accused was allowed to attend the cremation of her father.
Denial of bail is an essential part of the punishment under this law. For this law operates also as a vehicle for preventive detention, stealing away many years of life solely on the basis of charges framed by the police.
All of those arrested are public minded individuals who have successfully brought to light the untold misery and suffering being inflicted on adivasis by state forces and powerful vested interests. In many cases, the Supreme Court and the National Human Rights Commission recognized the illegalities committed by the government and the armed forces.
These 11 individuals and the organisations they are associated with have been taking up issues of workers, peasants and tribal rights, on issues of caste and communal violence, of development, displacement and the environment, of police firings, encounter killings and custodial violence.
Thus, conducting fact-finding missions, associating with the issues of the victims, providing them legal help has been part of the activities of these public minded individuals and the organisations they have been associated with. It is this engagement that is sought to be criminalized through these arrests.
Legally the Indian state may not recognize that there exists a category of political prisoners in the country, but through its actions of denying requests made for specific relief in times of Covid-19 by those implicated in this case, be it for extra time to surrender in case of Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde, or bail in case of 80 year old Varavara Rao or Shoma Sen, who is suffering from arthritis, the state has definitely shown that a dual system of justice does prevail when it comes to prisoners who have been incarcerated because of their political beliefs.
For us at the People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), the fact that one of them, Gautam Navlakha, apart from being a well recognised journalist and author, also happens to be an active long-standing member of the organization, makes this process of state vengeance doubly disturbing.
PUDR expresses its solidarity with all those who have been falsely implicated in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case and demands their immediate release along with the repeal of UAPA.
---
*Secretaries, People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR)

Comments

TRENDING

'Modi govt's assault on dissent': Foreign funds of top finance NGO blocked

By Rajiv Shah  In a surprise move, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, has cancelled the foreign funding license of the well-known advocacy group, Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), known for critically examining India's finance and banking sectors from human rights and environmental angle.

Misleading ads 'manipulate, seduce, lure' to market unhealthy harmful food

By Our Representative  The Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest (NAPI) in its new report “50 Shades of Food Advertising” has sought to expose how seductive, luring, manipulative or deceptive these advertisements can be. Consequences of such advertising are increased intake of unhealthy food products that is associated with obesity and diabetes, it says. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

'Failure of governance': India, China account for 54% pollution-related deaths globally

By Vikas Parsaram Meshram*   A recent report jointly prepared by UNICEF and the independent research organization Health Effects Institute has been released, and the statistics within it are alarming. It states that in 2021, air pollution caused the deaths of 2.1 million Indians, including 169,000 children who hadn't yet fully experienced life. These figures are indeed distressing and raise questions about why there hasn't been more serious effort in this direction, putting policymakers to shame. 

How US is using Tibetans to provoke conflict with China 'ignoring' India

By Lobsang Tenzin*  On July 12, US President Joe Biden signed the Resolve Tibet Act, and Tibetans cheered for it, believing that the law promotes a resolution of the dispute between Tibet and China. Is this true? First, let's look at the issue of the ownership of Tibet. 

August 9 to be observed as Corporates Quit India day: Top farmers' group

By Our Representative A recent general body meeting of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), the top farmers' organisation, stated hat "there is no need for any illusion of change in the pro-corporate policies of the BJP-NDA government" following the recent elections in which BJP failed to achieve even simple majority. It insisted,  Prime Minister Narendra Modi "is hell bent" to continue 'business as usual' policies.

Over 3.8 billion animals at risk: India on crossroad in animal welfare practices

By Rupali Soni*  In a collaborative effort, the India Animal Fund and Dasra have unveiled their report , "Our Shared Future | Securing Animal Welfare, Human Wellbeing, and Sustainability in India." This landscape report provides a thorough overview of animal welfare and underscores its indispensable role within India's socio-economic and ecological frameworks. It also illustrates how animal welfare is intricately intertwined with public health, labor welfare, and climate resilience.

Tribals from 60 villages observe seed festival to 'protect' diversity of indigenous seeds

By Bharat Dogra*  Nearly sixty villagers are sitting on an open floor covered by a roof for shade but otherwise open on all sides. Women and men are present in equal numbers but the visibility of women is higher because of their colorful dresses.