Prof. Hany Babu’s arrest is a blatant silencing of dissent

Statement by:
Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association
and
Campaign against the witch hunt of anti-CAA Activists

Our colleague from Delhi University, Hany Babu, has become the 12th person to be arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case. The die had been cast perhaps when in September 2019 the Pune Police conducted an unlawful raid on his home, seizing his electronic devices and books, without even deigning to follow requisite procedure. For the past two and a half years, the Pune police first, and now the NIA, have been conducting a blatant witch hunt in the name of investigations in the Bhima Koregaon Elgar Parishad case – raiding and arresting activists, academics and even lawyers who have stood with the most marginalised.

Behind all the bombast and the planted stories that appear in pliant media outlets, it will do us well to remember what precisely the Bhima Koregaon case is. In December 2017, when a range of Ambedkarite organisations called for a commemoration of the 200th anniversary of victory of the Mahar regiment over Peshwa’s forces, through cultural programmes and marches, Hindutva groups led by Milind Ekbote and Shambaji Bhide unleashed a reign of terror on Dalits who were gathering for the celebrations. While one FIR was booked by the Pune (rural) police to investigate Ekbote’s and Bhide’s role in fomenting violence against Dalits – the two leaders have been treated with infinite indulgence, with Ekbote arrested ever so briefly, and Bhide never at all. On the other hand, the Pune (city) police booked an FIR against the Elgar Parishad and went on to claim a larger, near apocalyptic conspiracy – so enormous in fact that the police conducted multi-city shock and awe raids and arrests over days in 2018. The police made stunning claims, including that those arrested – poets, trade unionists, writers, and academics – had been planning to assassinate the Prime Minister. Of course, these claims remained grist for their demonization on prime time television shows, as the government itself conceded in the Supreme Court (in Romila Thapar vs Union of India) that it had no evidence to link the accused to any such plot.

The NIA’s press statement about Hany Babu’s arrest reveals the utter lack of foundation of any case against him, and indeed against Elgar Parishad. The press statement makes reference to vague allegations (“propagating Naxal activities [sic] and Maoist ideology”) totally unconnected to anything concrete. The best allegations the NIA can come up against the Elgar Parishad is that it “encouraged unlawful activity”.

The only unlawful activity that has taken place – in plain view, for everyone to see – was the violent attack on Dalits by Ekbote’s, and Bhide’s goons, which the NIA and its masters are clearly uninterested in pursuing. Their interest is only in whitewashing the actual violence that took place, and to supplant instead a narrative of danger posed by so-called ‘Urban Naxals’ – a catch-all category in which all those who question, dissent, and refuse to buy the fairy tales being peddled to us, are to be corralled. As Hany Babu said in an interview to a magazine after the raid at his house, “if you are in a University and if you oppose state policy in any way, then you can be targeted”.

The Bhima Koregaon case is an instrument of silencing us all into submission. It is no coincidence that Hany Babu had been active in the anti-caste movement, as well a dogged campaigner for the release of Dr. G.N. Saibaba, another academic from Delhi University.

Hany Babu’s arrest is indicative of the way in which this case has been instituted from the very beginning. We appeal to all democratic minded individuals, organisations and political parties to raise their voice against this systematic hounding of academics and activists, and this wholesale criminalization of ideas.

 

 

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