Indian columnist Anand Teltumbde surrendered to the National Investigation Agency on April 14, 2020, on the instructions of the Supreme Court. He has been charged with illegally associating with a Maoist group.
Teltumbde is a columnist and writer who covers caste-based discrimination in India and has written critically of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Indian Express, Economic and Political Weekly, Tehelka and Outlook. He has also authored 30 non-fiction books.
His wife Rama Teltumbde, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview, said she believed Teltumbde’s arrest was related to his columns critical of the Modi government.
Authorities accused Teltumbde, columnist Gautam Navlakha, and nine others of being responsible for violence that erupted in the Pune district of Maharashtra state on December 31, 2017, and having links to the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), according to news reports.
On August 28, 2018, Maharashtra police raided Teltumbde’s home in Goa in his absence, as part of an investigation into his alleged role in violence that erupted in the Pune district of Maharashtra on January 1 that year, according to news reports. Police alleged that they discovered letters by Maoist leaders mentioning “Comrade Anand,” which they linked to Teltumbde, according to news reports. Teltumbde denied that the letters were referencing him, according to those reports.
On February 2, 2019, Pune police arrested Teltumbde as part of that investigation, and a court ordered him released on bail later that day, according to reports. Throughout 2019 and early 2020, Teltumbde appealed to the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court to drop the investigation, but his appeals were rejected, according to news reports.
On March 16, 2020, the Supreme Court rejected his final appeal and ordered Teltumbde to turn himself in to the National Investigation Agency, which he did on April 14, according to reports. In October 2020, the agency formally filed charges against Teltumbde, accusing him of importing Maoist literature and videos from his academic visits abroad and making statements that supported a Maoist revolution, according to the Indian Express.
Teltumbde has applied for bail three times since April 2020 on the grounds of the COVID-19 pandemic, the authorities’ failure to file charges within 90 days as stipulated by law, and medical grounds, according to news reports. National Investigation Agency courts have rejected all the applications.
If convicted of being a member of a banned Maoist party, he could face up to seven years in jail and a fine to be decided by the judge, according to reports.
According to a report released by the Massachusetts-based forensic firm Arsenal Consulting in March 2021, an unknown person planted a document referencing Teltumbde’s name on the laptop of Rona Wilson, a co-accused in Navlakha’s case, prior to Teltumbde’s arrest. That person also planted a file with the alleged details of funds transferred among Maoist party members, referencing an individual named “Anand,” and an alleged letter from “Anand” to “Naveen,” which discussed political organizing, updates on military matters, and concluded by saying, “Please destroy immediately after reading,” according to that report.
The documents cited in that report formed the basis of the National Investigation Agency’s case against Teltumbde, his wife told CPJ.
Teltumbde was also a victim of Pegasus spyware, according to CPJ research and Forbidden Stories.
As of late 2021, Teltumbde remains detained in the Taloja jail in the city of Navi Mumbai, Rama Teltumbde said. Teltumbde, who is 72, suffers from high blood pressure and spinal inflammation, and has been taken to a local hospital for treatment, she said.
Stan Swamy, a co-accused in Teltumbde’s case, who was also detained in Taloja Jail and suffered from Parkinson’s disease, died in May 2021 after testing positive for COVID-19, according to news reports. In April, the Indian Express reported that almost all jails in Maharashtra, including Taloja, were overcrowded.
National Investigation Agency spokesperson Jaya Roy did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent via text message. CPJ also emailed the Home Ministry, which oversees the National Investigation Agency, but did not receive any reply.