By ASMITA NANDY / The Quint
“One name, ‘Anand’, had come up during the Bhima Koregaon violence probe and they connected it to Anand Teltumbde. And our entire life turned upside down.”
Noted Dalit rights activist and author, Anand Teltumbde, surrendered to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on 14 April, as directed by the Supreme Court. One month since his arrest, his wife, Rama Teltumbde, also the granddaughter of Dr. BR Ambedkar, shared how life changed completely since 20 August, 2018, when police had come knocking on their door in connection with the violence that took place in Bhima Koregaon in January that year.
The Last Call to Daughters Before Surrender
But before surrender, Teltumbde completed an important task. He called his two daughter, who stay abroad, and said, “You must carry on with your lives.”
Rama Teltumbde said, “He told me also to carry on with life normally. But it is extremely difficult.”
Teltumbde is now shifted to Mumbai’s Taloja jail, where his wife cannot visit him regularly. “When he was in NIA custody, they allowed me to meet him daily for one hour. I used to go everyday to give him moral support,” Rama said.
She added, “Now I don’t even know how he is or in what condition he is living in. I get extremely worried sometimes.”
‘Lost All Hopes When Supreme Court Rejected Our Bail Plea’
Teltumbde and several other civil liberties activists were booked under stringent provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for allegedly having Maoist links and conspiring to overthrow the government.
As per the police, the activists had made inflammatory speeches and provocative statements at the Elgar Parishad meet held in Pune on 31 December 2017, which it said triggered violence the next day.
Teltumbde and Navlakha were given interim protection by the Bombay High Court while their pre-arrest bail pleas were being heard.
After HC rejected their applications, the duo approached the Supreme Court. On 17 March 2020, the apex court rejected their pleas and directed them to surrender within three weeks. On 9 April, the SC granted the duo another week to surrender by way of last chance.
Rama Teltumbde said, For two years, we were fighting with the courts for bail. We thought we’ll get some relief. Two years, we tried so hard that something will work out eventually.”
“When Supreme Court rejected the bail, we were completely devastated. We didn’t know what else to do. There was no other solution left.”
Family Worried About Teltumbde’s Health Amid COVID Crisis
At a time when jails have been asked to decongest and thousands of prisoners are being released following reports of inmates testing positive for COVID-19, Teltumbde’s wife says there is no way out for him.
After Supreme Court’s directives, Maharashtra government decided to temporarily release 11,000 prisoner in Maharashtra, whose sentence period is less than seven years.
“Anand’s trial has only not started, so how do we know whether his period of punishment is less than seven years or more,”Rama said.
“I am very scared. Anand is 70-years-old and has asthma. We had requested the court also to give us relief during the pandemic and the lockdown but court rejected our application.”
‘Have Faith in Courts That Anand Will be Released With Full Respect’
Even after a long struggle with police and courts, Rama says she has not lost faith in the country’s judicial system and hopes that her husband will be released with full dignity very soon. “I just want the trials to start as soon as possible. Once the trials start, the truth will be out in front of everyone.”
This article first appeared in thequint.com