Co-operate and get arrested!

By Aditi Gupta -August 1, 2020

Hany Babu M.T., Associate Professor of English at the University of Delhi, Major in Language Ideology, Politics and Policy, Linguistic Identity, Marginalised Languages and Social Justice, was arrested by NIA (National Investigation Agency) on, Tuesday, July 28, for connection with the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case. A total of 12 people – all activists, lawyers, and academics – have been arrested in the case.

The Elgar Parishad Event

The evening event was organized by a union of about 250 non-profit organizations with largely an Ambedkarite and Left-leaning ideology. It had more than 35,000 attendees. 

The event held many anti-caste and anti-communal cultural performances, speeches and slogans denouncing the Naya-Peshwai or Neo-Peshwa regime, inter alia. It saw participation from Dalit rights activists, artists, political leaders and former judges. Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani, Dalit activist Radhika Vemula, Adivasi activist Soni Sori, Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar, Bhim Army President Vinay Ratan Singh, retired Bombay High Court Justice BG Kholse-Patil, and student leader Umar Khalid were some of the notable participants.

The Violence

On 1st of January 2018, the erstwhile Elgar Parishad had become “Elgar Parishad Case” after violence broke out at Bhima Koregaon where Dalits, majorly Mahars, had gathered in huge numbers for the commemoration of 200 years of the Battle of Koregaon like every year.

28-year-old Rahul Phatangale died in the violence and many others were injured. Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi’s president Prakash Ambedkar called for Maharashtra Bandh on 3rd January 2018. It resulted in violent protests in Pune, Mumbai and other cities of Maharashtra. Several people were detained and a series of staggered consecutive arrests were made later.

Arrests and Aftermath

Two FIRs were filed, one by the Pune Rural Police and other by Pune City Police. Rural police registered FIR against right-wing leaders Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote for orchestrating the anti-Dalit violence; while City Police registered FIR against the Elgar Parishad for inflammatory speeches and Maoists links.

Who is Hany Babu M.T. and how he got involved?

Babu first got associated with the case in September 2019, when a team of more than 12 Maharashtra police officers came to his residence in Noida, raided his home for more than 6 hours, without any warning or even a warrant, and took away several of his books and electronic devices, including phones of his wife and daughter, not allowing them to communicate with their family and friends. The police had also barred Babu’s access to his email and other social media accounts.

Along with being a teaching faculty member at Delhi University, Babu is also a vocal anti-caste crusader and is well-known for his work on caste oppression, linguistics and the government’s suppression of dissent in universities.

Reportedly, the NIA told Babu that they have found a hidden folder on his computer that linked him to the Maoists. In a press statement, the NIA said: “During further investigation, it was revealed that accused Hany Babu Musaliyarveettil Tharayil was propagating Naxal activities and Maoist ideology and was a co-conspirator with other arrested accused.”

Hany Babu was summoned to Mumbai as a “witness” to the case amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Mr Hany, concerned about his health, said, “I did share my concerns with the officer who visited my home. He said, I have no choice but to fly down to Mumbai on July 15”. Since then he was constantly called to Mumbai every other day, which Hany did visit to cooperate with the ongoing case. Shockingly Hany Babu was unexpectedly arrested.

Professors and Students Enraged about the arrest

Hundreds of academics and activists have also spoken up against the arrest. The Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) said that forcing Babu to present himself at the NIA’s office and questioning him was “merely a ruse to force him into providing false testimony against other persons and accepting allegations of being a functionary of the Maoist group.”

Writer Arundhati Roy slammed the government for the “relentless and ongoing incarceration of activists, academics and lawyers”, a day after an associate professor of the Delhi University was arrested by the NIA in the Bhima Koregaon Elgar Parishad case.

After the NIA overtook the Bhima Koregaon case from the Pune Police in January this year, it has arrested Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde (alumnus of IIT Kharagpur & IIM Ahmedabad and professor at the Goa Institute of Management) both in their 70s with co-morbid health conditions. A Hyderabad-based journalist, Kranthi Tekula, was interrogated extensively at the NIA’s Mumbai office.

Eighty-year-old revolutionary poet Varavara Rao was shifted to a private hospital in Mumbai after a hue and cry by civil society. His health condition has worsened and he has tested positive for COVID-19. The other accused in the case, Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Sudhir Dhawale, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves, are all in prison.