On 2 February, the Pune Police briefly arrested Anand Teltumbde, a civil-rights activist, academic, and noted anti-caste scholar, despite a Supreme Court order granting him protection from arrest until 11 February. Calling the move “illegal,” a Pune sessions court ordered his release the same day, giving him the opportunity to seek bail before the protection period is scheduled to end. But Teltumbde still faces the prospect of re-arrest. His possible imprisonment is part of a country-wide police crackdown on human-rights activists and public intellectuals perceived to be critical of the Narendra Modi government. Students, teachers, and civil-society organisations across the country have expressed solidarity with Teltumbde after he appealed for public support.
Teltumbde is one of at least 11 activists who have been accused of having links to the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). Other activists have additionally been accused of inciting the violence that took place at Bhima Koregaon, a village near Pune, on 1 January 2018, and conspiring to assassinate the prime minister Narendra Modi. Since June 2018, at least nine of the 11 activists have been arrested, while police departments across the country have conducted raids at the homes of several others.
On 28 August 2018, the Pune police raided Teltumbde’s home in Goa. He was also booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The same day, police arrested five other activists. In a press conference on 31 August, Parambir Singh, the additional director-general of Maharashtra police, claimed that the activists had Maoist links. Singh said they found a letter written by a Maoist addressed to “Com Anand,” which they claimed was a reference to Teltumbde. The police also said that Teltumbde attended a convention in Paris that was funded by the Maoists. Teltumbde refuted the allegations against him, denying any association with the Maoist party.
On 15 October, Teltumbde filed an appeal in the Bombay high court asking the court to quash the case against him. In December, the court dismissed his petition and gave him three weeks to approach the Supreme Court. Teltumbde then approached the apex court and sought a dismissal of the charges against him. On 14 January, the Supreme Court refused to quash the case, but granted him four weeks—until 11 February— to seek pre-arrest bail. On 1 February, a Pune sessions court denied his anticipatory bail plea. Though the four-week relief was ongoing, the Pune police arrested him at 3:30 am on 2 February.