‘At least delay the arrest of Teltumbde, Navlakha’

Imprisonment poses serious risks to both senior citizens with pre-existing conditions in view of COVID-19, say signatories in a statement

April 03, 2020 05:10 pm | Updated 05:10 pm IST - New Delhi

Anand Teltumbde. | File

Anand Teltumbde. | File

More than 5,000 individuals and over 15 organisations around the world have pleaded that the impending arrest of activist-academics Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha be delayed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic .

Also read | ‘Denial of bail to Navlakha, Teltumbde alarming’

They were charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and various sections of the Indian Penal Code following the violence at Bhima Koregaon village near Pune on January 1, 2018. The case made by the Pune police accused them of Maoist links and was later taken over by the National Investigation Agency. On March 16, a Supreme Court Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and M.R. Shah rejected their anticipatory bail pleas and gave them time until April 6 to surrender.

Gautam Navlakha. | File

Gautam Navlakha. | File

Transnational advocacy

Imprisonment could pose serious health risks to both senior citizens with pre-existing conditions, the statement said. They have “medical conditions that put them at high risk for a deadly infection if imprisoned”. “Incarceration at such a time will most definitely endanger their lives and health. At the very least, we urge the judicial authorities to delay their arrest order, to after the global health crisis is fully subsided and there is no danger to their health and life,” said the statement. Signatories include Professors Angela Davis, Cornel West, Jean Dreze, Sukhadeo Thorat, Zoya Hasan and Noam Chomsky; writers and artists such as Arundhati Roy, Aparna Sen and T. M. Krishna. This was organised by India Civil Watch-International, a transnational democratic and civil rights advocacy group.

‘Jails amplify diseases’

“Both are internationally recognised for their life-long advocacy for the rights of the most marginalised communities of India. Pratap Bhanu Mehta, former Vice-Chancellor of Ashoka University endorses Anand Teltumbde as one of India’s foremost intellectuals, whose life work embodies the spirit of justice enshrined in the Indian Constitution…. As noted by prison reform advocates and health experts worldwide, ‘prisons and jails are amplifiers of infectious diseases’, especially for individuals with underlying health conditions,” said the signatories, pointing out that prisons in India are already in the process of releasing thousands of prisoners to forestall the spread of the virus in the population as a whole.

Prachi Teltumbde, one of the organisers of the statement, said, “As a medical doctor I can say this with certitude: no humanitarian institution would send people into a crowded jail that has all the conditions for the spread of COVID-19 and deadly risk. Anand Teltumbde is my father. I would not wish this on anyone, least of all my dad.”

They said the impending arrest of the two rights activists marks another escalation in the ongoing efforts to target dissent in India .

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