Anand Teltumbde is an Indian civil rights activist who has been in news for his alleged connection to the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence and a Maoist plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Anand Teltumbde is also known for his writings on caste system in India and philosophies of B. R. Ambedkar.
Anand Teltumbde was born in 1952 (age 68 years; as in 2020) in a small village called Rajur in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district. Since his school days, he was a meritorious student. After his schooling, he attended Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology in Nagpur to pursue B.Tech. in Mechanical Engineering in 1973. Later, he had to drop out of a master’s program at India’s top engineering college; as he could not afford the fee. In 1982, he did an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad. Thereafter, he pursued a PhD in Cybernetic Modelling from the University of Mumbai in 1993. He did his PhD while working as an executive at Bharat Petroleum in Mumbai. Mr. Teltumbde has also been bestowed with an honorary doctorate (D.Litt) from the Karnataka State Open University. He has enjoyed a successful career as a management professional and after serving as a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, he became a professor at the Goa Institute of Management. Before making a career in the field of academics, he was an executive at Bharat Petroleum and managing director of Petronet India Limited.
Family & Caste
Anand Teltumbde belongs to a family of Dalit farm labourers.
Parents & Siblings
His parents were farm labourers in Maharashtra. His mother’s name is Anusaya. He is the oldest among eight siblings. His brother, Milind Teltumbde has allegedly been involved in Naxalite activities.
Relationships, Wife & Children
Anand Teltumbde is married to Rama Teltumbde who is the great-granddaughter of B. R. Ambedkar, and the couple has two daughters – Prachi and Rashmi.
Civil Rights Activist
Anand Teltumbde is a very popular civil rights activist in India and has extensively advocated for the rights of Dalits. His activism started way back in 1967 when the 14-year-old Anand Teltumbde was studying in 9th standard in a school in the town of Wani in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district. At his school, he rebelled against the “Brahmin” students wearing black caps; instead of white caps that were part of the school uniform. The black caps are usually worn by RSS members. Since then, he has been advocating for the rights of Dalits.
Bhima Koregaon Case
Anand Teltumbde’s name has allegedly been involved in the Bhima Koregaon Case; an incident that happened on 1 January 2018 at a panchayat village of Pune called Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra where violence broke out after thousands of Dalits gathered at the Bhima Koregaon war memorial to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the 1818 Battle of Koregaon. A person was killed in the violence while many were injured. According to the police, the violence was triggered by participants of the Elgaar Parishad. The police went on to arrest almost ten intellectuals and activists on the charges of having Maoist links and instigating the Bhima Koregaon violence.
Assassination Plot of Narendra Modi
The officials investigating the Bhima Koregaon violence later expanded to a wide-ranging conspiracy, including a plot to assassinate Narendra Modi. Apart from the nine persons who were arrested in the case, Anand Teltumbde’ name was an addition to the list. Although the police did not give any detail of their investigation, some of the charges against Teltumbde were reportedly based on four letters and a ledger entry that had allegedly been recovered by the police from the computer of another person accused in the probe. Being an unrelenting critic of Narendra Modi was another clue cited by the police behind the conspiracy; as at a literary festival in 2017, he termed Narendra Modi a “narcissist par excellence” who could prove to be more dangerous than Hitler. he went on to quote that Mr. Modi’s politics, which were rooted in Hindu nationalism, amounted to “fascism plus something.”
Raids and Arrest
On 29 August 2018, the law enforcement officials raided his home in Goa in connection with his alleged links to the Bhima Koregaon violence and a Maoist plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr. Teltumbde was booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, a law that makes it extremely difficult for the accused to obtain bail. After his arrest, he rubbished these allegations and said,
I cannot describe the humiliation.”
Against his arrest, he approached the Supreme Court to quash the First Information Report (FIR) against him. Although the Supreme Court refused his request, it gave him four weeks to apply for anticipatory bail. Later, a Pune court rejected his application for anticipatory bail. Thereafter, he appealed to the Bombay High Court, and it was while he was travelling to Mumbai to meet his lawyer that he was arrested by the Pune Police at the airport at 3.30 a.m. on 3 February 2019. However, the same day, a Pune court ordered his immediate release; as the Supreme Court’s protection against arrest was in force till 11 February 2019.
The Outcry of Intellectuals Over His Arrest
The allegations against Mr. Teltumbde and his arrest shocked many in India and abroad, including author Arundhati Roy who said,
Teltumbde’s detention would silence a “powerful” voice with “an unimpeachable intellectual track record.”
In addition, more than 150 organizations and intellectuals, including Cornel West and Noam Chomsky signed a letter to Antonio Guterres (the secretary-general of the United Nations), describing the charges as “fabricated” and called for the UN to intervene.
After the Supreme Court dismissed his plea for anticipatory bail on 16 March 2020 and gave him three weeks to surrender, Anand Teltumbde surrendered before the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in Mumbai on 14 April 2020. His arrest was condemned by many intellectuals and historians, like Romila Thapar.
- In his school days, he used to paint cinema hoardings for pocket money.
- In 1994, he wrote his first book in Marathi – Jagatikikaran Ani Dalit-Shoshit. Thereafter, he went on to write 20 other volumes, 11 monographs, and more than 500 articles.
- Although he has extensively advocated for the rights of Dalits, he never himself faced discrimination. While talking about it, he says,
I have no particular memory of being discriminated against or an emotional trigger that I can say made me what I am. But I do remember some students (in Wani, where he enrolled after class VII), who were from better-off families, were dismissive of those like us who came from the villages. I was meritorious from the beginning and that gave me confidence early on.”
- Anand first read Ambedkar during his pre-university days in the library of Nagpur University’s Institute of Science.
- Although he has extensively written on Ambedkar, he is more inspired by Marx. While referring to a biography of Stalin that he had won as a prize in a school competition in class VII, he says,
There was this folklore around (B.R.) Ambedkar that we had to become like him, a ready role model. But I imbibed Marx much earlier than Ambedkar.”