Scholar, writer and activist Anand Teltumbde's voice cracks unnoticeably when he speaks about his mother, the woman who worked hard with her husband to raise their children in a village in Maharashtra. Anand was answering journalist Nandini Nair's question on his mother and daughters at a session at the Kerala Literature Festival in Kozhikode, where the two were in conversation on the subject 'Annihilation of caste'.
Anand has written much against caste -- columns and whole books -- even as career-wise his has been a different trajectory -- a degree in mechanical engineering, PhD in cybernet modelling, a corporate job and then turning a professor. "Even while I was literally a CEO, I have led a procession with a red flag," Anand says at his session.
Anand has an interesting take on caste and reservation which he does not wish to discuss in detail at the session. The original idea of reservation was necessary but post-colonial India has weaponised the concept. He ventures to say that at one point we may have to 'rethink the Constitution' after the present struggles (defending it) are over. "There is a need for the Dalit movement to understand the social situation carefully. Only then could you fight it. Things have changed," Anand says.
Among his books is The Persistence of Caste. Speaking about Ambedkar's Annihilation of Caste he says, "What the Communist Manifesto is to the capitalist world, Annihilation of Caste is to India."
As a child going to an elite school, he has observed Brahmin youths of the school wearing black colour caps in place of the Gandhian caps which were part of the uniform. He had not understood then that it was the RSS followers' cap. "Next year I distributed blue caps to students and during prayer time more than half the pupils were wearing those. I was called to the headmaster's office. But we wore it again the next day and the black caps disappeared," Anand says.
The fight began then, although he had not known at the time what he was fighting against. In 2018 it became a much bigger fight. His house was raided and he was arrested in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence of 2018. Anand was one among several lawyers and activists, who are vocal critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, arrested at the time.
"I don't have any quarrel with Modi as an individual but any individual - if he is out to destroy my country, spread poison in my people, destroy my economy and take away from my children - I would be against him," Anand says as the audience erupts into applause.
He is accused of sounding too hopeless by many, he says, but the nationwide protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) gives him hope, the women at Shaheen Bagh give him hope. "These (the rulers) are dangerous people and they have the state power. We have no other alternative but to carry on the fight," Anand says.