Prof Hany Babu’s house raided again

Published : August 02, 2020 17:50 IST

Prof Hany Babu being produced in the NIA court in Mumbai on July 29. Photo: PTI

Early Sunday morning, 12 personnel of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Delhi Police entered the house of Prof Jenny Rowena, who teaches English at Miranda House. They were there for four hours and took away hard drives, pen drives and booklets pertaining to the Defence Committee for G.N. Saibaba (a Delhi University professor who is 90 per cent disabled, arrested in 2014 for having Maoist links and convicted in 2017). Jenny Rowena, the wife of Prof Hanny Babu who was arrested a few days ago, and her under-age daughter were alone at their house during the raid.

Prof Rajib Ray, president of the Delhi University Teachers’ Association, condemned the incident: “As President of the DUTA, I strongly protest and urge the government to desist from these illegal, strong-arm tactics, and immediately stop this witch-hunt against academics and scholars.”

Hany Babu was arrested by the NIA in Mumbai on July 28 when he had gone to the agency’s office with the idea of of cooperating with its investigation in the Bhima Koregaon Elgar Parishad case in which he had been named as a suspect (https://frontline.thehindu.com/dispatches/prof-hany-babu-of-delhi-university-a-human-rights-activist-arrested-by-nia-in-elgar-parishad-case/article32220849.ece).

This is the second time that their house is being raided. In September last year the Maharashtra Police had barged in without following protocol. They had confiscated all of Babu’s electronic devices, including his course material and class lectures. The Elgar Parishad case was handed over to the NIA in January this year. Subsequently, after arresting him, the NIA claimed to have found incriminating evidence against Babu in his electronic devices that allegedly connected him to Maoist groups. Ironically, both Babu and Jenny Rowena are staunch anti-caste activists and have often critiqued the Left in India.

This second raid comes as a surprise as Babu is already in the NIA’s custody. “This is pure harassment,” Jenny Rowena told Frontline.

The material seized by the NIA made it clear that the agency was probing the Committee for the Defence and Release of G.N. Saibaba. Babu was the general secretary of the committee. All the documents of the committee are available online and are in the public domain. The raid seems sheer harassment, said a source privy to the developments.

“While Babu was arrested in the Elgar Parishd case, it is clear that the NIA is simply widening its net around people who stood up for Saibaba or supported him with medical or legal aid. If it was illegal to work in the committee, the government should have explicitly said so, or banned the committee. But, if it implies that whoever speaks up for an arrestee will also be arrested, then it is a dangerous trend,” said a person on the committee on conditions of anonymity. Babu is the third person in the committee who has been implicated in the Bhima Koregaon case. The other two are Sudhir Dhawale and Anand Teltumbde.

In a statement after Babu’s arrest, the committee, headed by Prof Hargopal, a visiting professor at the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bengaluru, said: “His arrest is in continuation with the state’s concerted efforts to intimidate and get rid of all dissenting voices, especially of those who are engaged in campaigns for social justice and equality. Beginning with the arrest of G.N. Saibaba, there has been a pattern of naming, framing and arresting. Dr Hany Babu’s arrest is the latest in a series of arrests that bode ill for the future of Indian democracy. Like the 11 others who were arrested before him as accused in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case, Babu has also been accused of being a Maoist conspirator. It has become patent that the epithet ‘Urban Naxal’ is now becoming a maintainable charge without a legal base. It is significant that the epithet has been most often deployed for academics, intellectuals, artists, writers, journalists and students: it is clearly intended to discourage, dissuade and intimidate any impulse toward critical thinking and questioning, especially in the academic community.”

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