This year’s Mother’s Day must have been the hardest for 92-year-old Anusaya Teltumbde. She has not recovered from the recent loss of her insurgent son, while the other one is locked up in jail for the past two years.
Milind Teltumbde, a Maoist leader, was gunned down by the police in November 2021, while Anand, his elder brother, a well known columnist and author, continues to be incarcerated under trumped up charges for questioning the power and standing up for the poor and marginalised.
Anand Teltumbde happens to be the grandson-in-law of an undisputed Dalit icon, the architect of the Indian constitution Dr. B.R.Ambedkar. Ironically, he was arrested on the birthday of Ambedkar in 2020, while the entire nation, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi were paying tokenistic respect to him.
When Milind died, Anand was not even given bereavement leave to visit his mom.
Rama, the granddaughter of Ambedkar and the wife of Anand, told this writer on Mother’s Day that she doesn’t even know that her eldest son is in jail. “She believes that he is stuck somewhere abroad where he had gone for a guest lecture because of COVID 19”. In fact, he has travelled abroad in the past and visited Vancouver in 2016.
In such difficult times, Rama and Anusaya are struggling everyday, with special bonding rooted in the ideology of Ambedkar. According to Rama, even though Anusaya is unlettered, born in a marginalized family of landless labourers belonging to the Dalit or so called untouchable community, she tried to provide the best of education to all her eight children.
Anusaya was influenced by Ambedkar, who wanted the Dalits to educate themselves and fight against caste-based discrimination within the Hindu society. She attended Ambedkar’s historic congregation in Nagpur in 1956, where he renounced Hinduism to embrace Buddhism.
As a result, she resolved to educate her kids by spending half of her income from labour on their schooling.
“Anand credits his mother for what he has earned in terms of fame as an established writer and educator,” says Rama.
Since Anusaya had lost another son in 2009, losing the second one last year came as a major shock, even as Anand remains out of sight.
He used to call her from inside the prison once a while to assure that he is fine. Beyond that, everyone in the family keeps consoling her that he would be back soon, once the pandemic is over and travel restrictions are eased.
Gurpreet Singh is a journalist