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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 20, New Delhi, May 2, 2020

Letter to the Editor from Dr. Atulkrishna Biswas - April 29, 2020

Sunday 3 May 2020

Communication

This rests on the Appeal captioned “Dr. Anand Teltumbde’s Arrest on Ambedkar Jayanti: A National Shame” calling upon the Dalit, Adivasi, OBC, and minority leadership to stand up and seek justice in the finest of traditions that Babasaheb has bequeathed to us signed by Dr. Thol Thirumavalavan, MP Founder-President, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, D. Raja, MP (Rajya Sabha), General Secretary, Communist Party of India Jijnesh Mewani, Independent MLA Vadgam (Gujarat), Dr. Udit Raj, Ex-MP Indian National Congress, Prakash Ambedkar, Ex-MP Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi D.Ravikumar, MP, General Secretary, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, Vinaj Ratan Singh, National President, Bhim Army Bharat Ekta Mission, Nausad Solanki, MLA, Gujarat Indian National Congress, Prof. Dr. Sujatha Surepally, Convenor, Bahujan Resistance Forum, Telangana, Dr. Rajkumar Chabbewal, MLA (Hoshiyarpur, Punjab) Indian National Congress. [Mainstream, Vol. LVIII no 18, New Delhi, April 18, 2020.]

Prof. Anand Teltumbde is one of India’s outstanding scholars whose works are widely used in all US and European universities. An able and conscientious interpreter of social malaise of India, he enjoys large readership at home as well. Hitherto formal appeals on same line have been submitted from various respectable quarters to the highest authorities of India. Dalits, tribals and backward classes and minorities apart, a very large section of educated and intellectual class, scholars and researchers across the board is alarmed and anguished over the treatment meted out to this distinguished scholar. If charges against Dr Anand, having regard for his profound intellectual pursuit and contributions, are dropped, the move will be received with wide and loud applause as it will generate a feeling of confidence and esteem for the Government.

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This may remind us of two illustrations when appeals to colonial authorities for clemency for Indians convicted by competent courts were treated with uncommon magnanimity.

Following outbreak of plague in Poona in 1896, the Plague Commissioner, Walter Charles Rand, a young ICS officer was murdered in June 1897 by two orthodox youths who avenged atrocious outrages and intrusion in private life of people by anti-plague measures in Poona to stamp out the scourge. Both were arrested, convicted and hanged.

However, Bal Gangadhar Tilak was prosecuted on charge of sedition u/s 124A IPC for “exciting feelings of disaffection” against the Government through articles published in his English weekly, Kesari and sentenced to 18 months’ rigorous imprisonment. A campaign, both in India and Britain, was launched for his release. A memorial, sponsored by Sir William Hunter, Sir Richard Garth, Dadabhai Naoroji, Romesh Chandra Dutt and Prof. Max. Muller, was sent to the Queen Elizabeth for clemency. They had argued that release of Tilak would produce “a beneficial effect on the public mind.” He was acquitted by the Monarch in deference to the mercy plea.

The second instance concerns what is called the Tarakeswar affair or the Tarakeswar scandal, which triggered widespread sensation in 19th-century Bengal.

The young wife of a government servant, Nobin Chandra Banerjee was involved in an illicit relationship with the Brahmin head priest (or mohant) of the prosperous Tarakeswar Shiva temple, resulting ultimately in her murder by her husband. When the husband returned to Tarakeswar from Calcutta to learn of his wife’s amorous liaisons with the mohant from public gossip, he felt deeply hurt and humiliated. So, Nobin Banerjee murdered his life with a fishcutter in 1873, surrendered to local police and confessed the crime. Both Nobin and the mohant were prosecuted and convicted by Calcutta High Court---the husband for life u/s 302 IPC whereas the head priest to undergo three years rigorous imprisonment.

Enraged at the life imprisonment for Nobin vis-à-vis light sentence against the vile mohant, a mercy plea, signed by 10,000 persons, representing the Calcutta elite, district town notables, local royals and "acknowledged leaders of native society" along with the "lower middle class” was addressed to the highest colonial authorities. The convict was released from jail, serving the sentence after two years.

Denial of justice for the poor woman, murdered by her husband remains a standing blot for the overrated renaissance of Bengal in the nineteenth century.

In deference to public sentiment, the colonial government nonetheless was liberal enough to release the murderer despite his heinous crime.

Dr. Atulkrishna Biswas

Former Vice-Chancellor,

Dr. Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University,

Muzaffarpur, Bihar

April 29, 2020

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