Dalit activists and scholars Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde, accused in the Bhima-Koregaon case, surrendered before the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday, 14 April.
As the nation observed the 129th birth anniversary of Dr BR Ambedkar, a black flag was hoisted outside his house in Mumbai to protest the arrest of Dalit activists and scholars Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha.
Amid the lockdown, the Supreme Court, on 9 April, had directed the Teltumbde and Navlakha, accused in the Bhima Koregaon violence case, to surrender before the National Investigation Agency (NIA) within a week. The top court had said the time would not be extended since the courts are functioning in Maharashtra.
Prior to their arrests, Amnesty and other civil rights groups, and activists had voiced their strong protest against the Supreme Court’s decision to jail them amid a pandemic, raising health concerns of both the activists.
Many on Twitter also pointed out the “irony” of Dalit activists being arrested in connection with an allegedly “false case”, on the same day when India was celebrating the 129th birth anniversary of Dalit icon Dr BR Ambedkar. In fact, Teltumbde is married to BR Ambedkar’s grand daughter.
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.
The activists were booked initially by the Pune police following the violence that erupted at Koregaon-Bhima.
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.
The police also said they were active members of banned Maoist groups. The case was later transferred to NIA.
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.
(With PTI inputs)