Social activist Ram Puniyani gets threat to life

Published : Jun 08, 2019 15:54 IST

On June 6, former Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) professor Ram Puniyani received two threatening calls from unidentified people. The callers hurled abuses at Puniyani and asked him to stop his “anti-Hindu” activities and leave the country within 15 days or face dire onsequences. In his complaint filed at the Powai police station, Puniyani said the calls were five minutes apart. Both times the callers issued the same threat about stopping his work. As the calls were made on his landline, Puniyani was able to record one telephone number through the caller ID facility. The other number did not show up. He has given the phone number to the police, who he says have promised to trace the call. Puniyani, a retired professor of biomedical engineering at IIT Bombay, is well known and highly respected for his work towards ensuring communal harmony. Post the 1992-93 Babri Masjid riots and the Mumbai serial blasts, Puniyani worked actively with communities across the city towards living in peace. It was the effort put in by campaigners such as Puniyani that has ensured communal peace in Mumbai. Speaking to Frontline after the phone calls, Puniyani said: “I am constantly getting threats via email. There have been a few calls in the past as well but not to this extent. However, this is the first time I have received such a serious and dangerous sounding threat.” He believes the calls are from extreme right-wing activists who are not comfortable with his writing. In his complaint, Puniyani said that in March 2019 unidentified people arrived at his home saying they needed to verify details for his passport. He had not applied for one, which made him suspicious. He provided the CCTV footage to the police but they were unable to identify the men. Puniyani says they are still working on the case and he is confident the police will trace the “visitors” and callers soon. “Several civil organisations have gone to the police to explain the seriousness of this incident. The Mumbai Police Commissioner has assured us that protection will be stepped up and they will begin an investigation. Activists from all over the country have sent supportive messages and I have received a lot of media attention, which hopefully will send a clear message that they cannot get away with this,” says Puniyani. “These are dangerous times. The activist community in Mumbai, including former Mumbai Police Commissioner Julio Rebeiro, has taken my incident very seriously. They are planning to keep up the pressure to find the culprits,” says Puniyani,  who has been provided security temporarily. Puniyani is associated with the All India Secular Forum, the Centre for Study of Society and Secularim and ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy). He travels widely, spreading the message of securalism and pluralism. He is clearly on the radar of organisations not comfortable with this work. In the recent past, four activists have been gunned down and killed by suspected right-wing organisation members. They were also threatened in similar ways. Investigations have still not found the culprits behind these murders.

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