Elgar Parishad case | Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha surrender to NIA

Scholar Anand Teltumbde arrives at the NIA office in Mumbai on Tuesday, and, right, activist Gautam Navlakha outside the agency’s office in New Delhi. Photos: Vivek Bendre, ANI  

Civil rights campaigner Gautam Navlakha and scholar and activist Anand Teltumbde surrendered to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday in New Delhi and Mumbai respectively for their alleged involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon riots of 2018.

Mr. Teltumbde, an engineer and IIM graduate who taught at IIT-Kharagpur, was booked for his alleged links to the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and remanded to NIA custody till April 18 by a special NIA court in Mumbai.

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The NIA court in Mumbai, however, did not take up Mr. Navlakha’s remand application because of jurisdictional issues, and he will be produced before a Delhi court on Wednesday.

The Supreme Court on April 8 ordered Mr. Navlakha and Mr. Teltumbde to surrender after rejecting their anticipatory bail pleas. The case against them was transferred from the Pune police to the NIA in January. Both have been charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

Earlier, in 2018, the Pune police arrested activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Arun Ferreira, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Vernon Gonsalves and Varavara Rao, for their alleged involvement in the Bhima Koregaon riots.

Hope for speedy trial

Before surrendering to the NIA, Mr. Navlakha said in a statement, “My hope rests on a speedy and fair trial for myself and all my fellow co-accused. This alone will enable me to clear my name, and walk free, having also used the time in jail to rid myself of acquired habits.”

Also read | Gautam Navlakha hopes for speedy, fair trial ahead of surrender to NIA

He also referred to concerns expressed by those close to him about having to surrender at a time when the pandemic was raging and the courts were releasing many detainees from jail.

“Draconian provisions of UAPA are not accompanied by stricter procedures regarding evidence, especially electronic, considering the stringent punishment provided for under the Act; the procedures, which otherwise provide tighter rules regarding evidence, are instead made elastic. Under this double whammy, jail becomes the norm, and bail an exception. In this Kafkaesque domain, process itself becomes punishment,” Mr. Navlakha stated.

In Mumbai, Prakash Shetty, special public prosecutor for NIA, sought Dr. Teltumbde’s custody for 10 days stating that the agency needed to probe the role of the accused in detail, and also need to know about the details of the conspiracy hatched.

In its remand application, NIA claimed that Dr. Teltumbde’s call data record of his mobile phone showed that he was in contact with people accused in the case and that “he was present at the place of offence on relevant period”. The agency also claimed that Dr. Teltumbde was the convenor of the programme, and that he had received funds from the CPI (Maoist), and also claimed that electronic articles seized showed his complicity.

The agency also pleaded that they may be allowed to handcuff the accused because of COVID-19 pandemic to avoid physical contact. Defense lawyer Arif Siddique opposed NIA’s plea stating that Dr Teltumbde has been out since a year and half and under the protection of courts from arrest, and stated that Dr Teltumbde had not done anything illegal during this period so his custodial interrogation was not necessary. Dr Teltumbde’s lawyers also contested that the accused was not arrested by surrendered before the court.

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After considering the arguments the court remanded Dr Teltumbde to NIA custody till April 18.

Both Dr. Teltumbde and Mr. Navlakha were booked at the Vishrambaug police station in Pune where an offence was registered on January 8, 2018, on the basis of a complaint lodged by a local builder, Tushar Damgude. He alleged that members of the CPI (Maoist) and Kabir Kala Manch spread hatred through provocative songs, plays and speeches delivered at Elgar Parishad held at Shaniwar Wada on December 31, 2017.

Also read | Understanding Bhima Koregaon

In a statement, Amnesty International India said, ““The clampdown on dissent in India continues. Even during a pandemic, the Government of India is targeting those critical of the government. When hard-won rights to expression and peaceful protest are weakened, everyone stands to lose.”

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 4:42:20 PM |

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