On Tuesday, 28th July, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Dr. Hany Babu, an Associate Professor at the University of Delhi (DU), in relation to the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case.
Hany Babu Musaliyarveettil Tharayil, 54, is a resident of Noida, Uttar Pradesh and teaches in the Department of English at the University of Delhi.
The NIA has accused him of spreading Maoism ideology and Naxal activities and encouraging unlawful activities. This in relation to an Elgar Parishad event of 31st December, 2017, organised by the Kabir Kala Manch at Shaniwarwada in Pune, where alleged provocative speeches were made to incite people, prompting enmity between various caste groups and leading to violence that resulted in loss of life and property and state-wide agitation in Maharashtra.
The Federation of Central Universities Teachers’ Association (FEDCUTA) condemned the arrest calling it ‘yet another attempt to muzzle academic freedom’.
“Prof. Babu has been a brilliant academic and organic intellectual committed to the cause of social justice. He was instrumental in forcing the DU administration to uphold the rights of students belonging to OBC to get admission in accordance with constitutional provisions,” it said.
Rajib Ray, President of FEDCUTA stated, “We take strong exception to the fact that such a precipitative action was taken by the NIA while Prof. Babu was fully cooperating with the investigation. He travelled all the way to Mumbai, an epicenter of the COVID pandemic and stayed there for almost a week. The risk of COVID infection during his incarceration is a real possibility… It is extremely unfortunate that academic censorship and criminal vitiation of academic spaces stares us in the face.”
Professor Babu is also a member of the Committee for the Defence and Release of Dr. GN Saibaba, a former DU professor who’s currently serving life sentence over charges of having Maoist links.
Chairperson of the committee, Professor G Haragopal stated, “After being denied the option of video-conferencing, Dr. Hany Babu was summoned to Mumbai by the NIA. The questioning was merely a pretext to intimidate him into providing false testimony and admissions and harassment in the name of interrogation.”
He added, “It is significant that the epithet ‘Urban Naxal’ is often deployed for academics, intellectuals, artists, writers, journalists and students. It is clearly intended to discourage, dissuade and intimidate any impulse towards critical thinking and questioning, especially in the academic community.” Haragopal is a visiting professor at National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore.
Following the arrests, several students and teachers also took to Twitter in support. Student political organisations like All India Students’ Association (AISA) and Students’ Federation of India (SFI) expressed their solidarity with the professor. They called for Twitter storms with #StandWithProfHanyBabu and #ReleaseHanyBabu.
The Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association called the arrest ‘a blatant silencing of dissent’. It said, “We appeale to all democratic minded individuals, organisations and political parties to raise their voice against the systematic hounding of academics and activists, and the wholesale criminalisation of ideas.”
Former Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) ex-president, Nandita Narain, in a report by The New Indian Express, said, “Hany Babu is an icon for many students and teachers. The news of him getting arrested is shocking and condemnable. The government is targeting people who have different ideologies and raising their voice against the wrong.” Narain is a professor at St. Stephen’s College.
Professor Hany Babu’s wife Jenny Rowena is also a professor and teaches in the Department of English at Miranda House, University of Delhi.
A group of students at Miranda House released a statement in solidarity with the professor and his family. They claimed to stand in ‘staunch opposition with the continued campaign of intimidation tactics being carried out under the veneer of an investigation’.
Prominent figures like Dilip Mandal, author Arundhati Roy and Ruchi Kokcha have also come out in support of the professor.
Professor Babu is a renowned DU academician and anti-caste activist. He has been repeatedly instrumental in ensuring that candidates belonging to SC, ST and OBC communities get their due in admissions and appointments in DU. He has worked on projects about Linguistic Theory and South Asian Languages and contributed to the discussions of regional languages.
Feature Image Credits: India Tomorrow