In Solidarity with Professor Hany Babu: Knowledge Deemed Crime

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On Tuesday, 10th September, the Pune Police searched the residence of Hany Babu, an Associate Professor in the Department of English of the University of Delhi (DU), in relation to the Elgar Parishad Koregaon Bhima case.

On 11th September, students from the Department of English organised a protest near Faculty of Arts, to express their anger and condemn the “illegal raid” at the residence of an Associate Professor from their department, Professor Hany Babu. Professor Babu has been a professor in the varsity for over a decade and has come under the scrutiny of the Pune Police due to his alleged links with the Maoist ideology that incited violence in Koregaon Bhima villages of Maharashtra in 2017.

In his public statement, Professor Babu said, “The search went on for six hours, at the end of which they said they (the Pune Police officials) would be seizing my laptop, my hard disks, my pen drives, and books. They made me change the passwords of my social media accounts and my e-mail account. They have complete access to my accounts now through the changed passwords and I no longer have access to these accounts. I would like to state that as a teacher, my work is heavily dependent on what I’ve saved in my laptops and external hard disks. It also contains the research work that I’ve been pursuing for years. This work is not something which can be duplicated in days. These are years of my hard work. I don’t understand how a government agency can seize my work without providing me the reasons for it, or the basis on which a search was conducted at my residence. They did not have a search warrant with them and they did not explain further as to why they don’t possess the same.”

The Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) condemned the act. In two separate statements, signatories including staff members and teachers of the varsity have criticised the Pune police and wrote, “The fact that legally obtained and publicly available documents may be imagined by the state as containing traces of one’s culpability is worse than declared attempts at censorship. It effectively means that any text may now become a pretext for the state to snoop into and invade our homes, our bookshelves, our lives and our families. Is the act of reading itself proscribed in what is numerically the world’s largest democracy?” Further, Professor Babu’s students also released a statement aptly titled “Professor, He is Our Professor” which reads, “While we feel that the law must take its own course, we also make it clear that these surprise searches without warrants are illegal and amount to extreme harassment. It is incumbent upon legal institutions to oppose such arbitrary raids and prevent/oppose the misuse of inherently dangerous laws such as the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act).” Importantly, the statement also noted, “Hany Babu’s demand for language equality is allied to his demand for breaking caste exclusions in how knowledge is organised,” as Babu is also a part of the Alliance for Social Justice, a forum for opposing caste discrimination in the University.

The subjugation of voices, the strong opposition of ideas, and vulnerability of those who are knowledgeable becomes a trend in the times when a country’s strong voices are subdued to pave way for the façade of calmness and democracy. A professor explicitly claimed in one of their classes that with this advancement, most of the academicians who, over the years, have developed the intellect and voice to speak out, are afraid. Professor Babu’s case hits home in every regard. As respectable figures in the Department, both he and his wife, Mrs. Jenny Rowena, amass strong support, but most of it is under the protective layer of secrecy and confidentiality. For, even the ones with knowledge want to stay safe from the starkness of this dangerous world of misinterpretation and hypocrisy.

Feature Image Credits: Sabrang India

Bhavya Pandey

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