At the time of writing, more than 670 students, researchers, faculty and alumni of the prestigious IIM Ahmedabad and IITs across India have in their individual capacities expressed their solidarity with Dr Anand Teltumbde.

They request the President of India to intervene and ensure the dropping of all charges against Dr Teltumbde, who was asked to surrender to police on April 6.

This is the first time in the history of India that a former IIT professor, a former CEO, an IIM alumnus has been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act which provides the accused with vanishing recourse.

Hundreds of students and faculty have strongly condemned ‘the intentions and actions of the state’. The statement from IIM, Ahmedabad adds, ‘We strongly urge the Chief Justice of India and the Supreme Court to take cognizance of the dangers posed by the pandemic COVID19 to the health and life of Dr Teltumbde, a senior citizen with pre-existing health conditions and at a high risk of infection, if imprisoned.

‘Incarceration at such a time will most definitely endanger his life. Professor Teltumbde has been fully cooperating with the investigating authorities and poses no flight risk. At the very least, we urge the judicial authorities to amend the arrest order to a date post the subsiding of the global health crisis, so that there is no danger to his life’ — a concern and demand echoed by the IIT community as well.

The Supreme Court on March 16 rejected the anticipatory bail application for Dr Teltumbde and asked him to surrender before police by April 6. He has been charged with involvement in a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and for inciting mob violence in the Bhima Koregaon incident in January 2018 along with Maoists.

The primary basis for charging Dr Teltumbde is letters supposedly confiscated from the digital devices of other accused persons, in a case whose ‘authenticity is yet to be proven as per scientific standards, and which had the risk of being manipulated by the police’, as the statement from the IIT community says.

The statement from IIM, Ahmedabad quotes reports by the American Bar Association and the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner which have termed the Bhima Koregaon case as ‘full of irregularities and violating the human rights of those charged under that case’ and ‘pointing to the fabricated nature of the evidence’.

Both statements mention Dr Teltumbde’s humble beginnings and his rise to the topmost echelons of the corporate world through hard work, erudition and integrity.

The statement by the IIT fraternity reminds us of Dr Teltumbde’s roots in a family of landless labourers, his hard-earned education at prestigious institutes such as VNIT and IIM Ahmedabad, and his illustrious career where he held the positions of Managing Director of the National Oil and Chemicals Company in Nigeria, Executive Director of the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, and Managing Director and CEO of Petronet India Limited, apart from being a member of the boards of other companies.

The statements also mention Dr Teltumbde’s five-year stint as Professor of Management at VGSOM, IIT Kharagpur and his current role as Senior Professor and Chair of Big Data Analytics at the Goa Institute of Management.

Professor Anand Teltumbde’s contribution to the democratic ideals of this country has been immense. The statement by IIM Ahmedabad community says, ‘His astute analysis on the dynamics of caste and class and the relevance of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar for contemporary society are essential references for scholars and are required reading at many universities around the world. He is frequently an invited speaker at international conferences, demonstrating the respect his work commands all over the globe.

‘Dr Teltumbde has actively built civil society organisations such as the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) of which he is the general secretary, and the All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE) of which he is a presidium member. None of the organizations he is associated with are banned organizations in India.’

An important parallel is drawn by this distinguished academic fraternity: ‘A century before the UAPA amendments were passed in 2019, the colonial British government passed the Rowlatt Act for India, that much like the UAPA amendments, snatched powers of due process of law, jury and trial. Mahatma Gandhi started his first major nationwide Satyagrahas against that Act.

‘What followed was the unfortunate incident of the Jallianwala Bagh and nationwide protests by public figures and ordinary citizens alike – forcing the imperial government to withdraw the Act. Surely, after a century, a free and democratic republic of India cannot let such a provision meant for an entirely different context be used to incarcerate India’s noted public figures.’

While the statement by the IIT fraternity notes that ‘the state is setting a terrible precedent’, the statement by IIM Ahmedabad sounds the alarm that ‘the state is sending a message to the entire country that it could go to any extent to repress the voice of people if they dare to dissent’.

‘He is a role model for so many of us, faculty and students alike. It’s rare to find someone from IIM-A with such a distinguished corporate career, to stand up for democracy and social justice. He provides our campus with a guiding hope for a better future for this country’, says the statement by the IIM Ahmedabad community.

Through the statements issued in solidarity with Dr Anand Teltumbde, the students, researchers, faculty and alumni of the IITs and IIM Ahmedabad have sent a message to the state that they are with the democratic ideals enshrined in the Constitution, and will stand by it just like their ‘role model’ – Dr Anand Teltumbde.

Anirban Goswami is an alumnus of IITKGP, a research scholar and a student activist