Indian journalist 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 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 a 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.
On April 25, a special National Investigation Agency court in Mumbai rejected Teltumbde’s application for bail on the grounds of the COVID-19 pandemic, and on July 19 the court rejected his request for bail due to the agency’s failure to file charges within 90 days, according to news 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.
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.
As of late 2020 he was detained in the Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai, Rama Teltumbde said.
The journalist’s wife told CPJ in September 2020 that Teltumbde is 70 and had shown some symptoms of the COVID-19 virus infection while in detention. However, upon testing he was found negative, according to the Hindustan Times. Teltumbde continues to suffer from high blood pressure, asthma, and spinal inflammation, his wife said.
National Investigation Agency spokesperson Alok Mital did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment via text message in October 2020. The Home Ministry, which oversees the National Investigation Agency, did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment in November 2020.