#DelhiUniversity: ‘If reading books is a crime, then we are all criminals’

Students and teachers gathered at Delhi University's Arts Faculty to protest against the unwarranted raid on a DU professor, Dr Hany Babu's house

WrittenBy:Chahak Gupta and Samyak Jain
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On Wednesday this week, students of Delhi University gathered at the Arts Faculty in Delhi’s North Campus to protest against the unwarranted raid on Dr. Hany Babu’s home in Noida. A noted anti-caste and human rights activist, Babu is an Associate Professor at the English Department of the university and the coordinator of the ‘Alliance for Social Justice’ and a member of the ‘Joint Action Front for Democratic Education’. He is also a part of the committee formed for the defence and release of Dr. GN Saibaba, a disabled professor currently serving a life term for his alleged links with the Maoist movement.

Dr.Babu and Dr Jenny Rowena, his wife and a professor of English at DU’s Miranda House, alleged that the police entered their residence in Noida at 6:30 am on Tuesday, September 10. They claimed that Dr. Babu was a suspect in the Bhima Koregaon case and therefore, they do not require a warrant to conduct the search. 

The police then seized Babu’s laptop, his hard disk, 2 books, and forced him to change his passwords, blocking his access to all his social media handles. 

In his statement, Babu said, for an academician, all their years of hard work and research is stored on their laptops and hard disk, and it’s improbable to produce a copy of them. 

Allegedly, the equipment seized was not sealed before being taken away.  

Dr. Hany Babu has been teaching at the university for more than a decade and although there were no arrests made, the alleged unlawful search has raised questions about the increasing extra-judicial attacks on voices speaking against the establishment. 

Along with Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA), the Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) has also released an official statement supporting Hany Babu and condemning such attacks on academics and free university spaces. 

JNUTA said, “For any academic, the confiscation of his academic archive is naturally the source of the greatest anxiety, but added to this is the very real possibility of mischievous tampering by a police force, which seemed to be out on a fishing expedition,”

DUTA President Rajib Ray said: “Such raids without search warrants are against the very essence of democracy, individual freedom, and open the door for planting evidence. Arbitrary use of instruments by the state to harass and intimidate dissent is inexcusable….this attack on academic freedom and freedom of expression will be opposed tooth and nail by the teachers of Delhi University and other academic institutions in the country.”

While protestors at Arts Faculty on Wednesday afternoon were predominantly students of the Department of English, faculty members and student organizations were also present. Slogans were raised against fascism and the arbitrary nature of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Loud chants of “Inquilab Zindabad”, “Faasivaad Murdabaad”, “UAPA, down down” and “We support you, Hany Babu” could be heard from across the road. 

“We will not stop here, even if they [police] come and knock on our doors tomorrow,” said Arif, a student leading the protest. 

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One of the people shouting these slogans was Professor Anshuman Singh of Dyal Singh College. “The whole incident follows a pattern where an atmosphere of fear is created within the academic community. In India, as a society, there is very little protest when intellectuals are put behind bars because there is an overwhelming discourse there that they are working against ‘India’ and the discourse has become stronger ever since 2014. Hany Babu’s books have been taken away, books that many of us have. Simply having a book on Maoism doesn’t turn you into a Maoist. He (Dr. Hany Babu) also said in his interview that he has books on the RSS. Does that make him a member of the RSS?” he said. 

Protestors shouting slogans condemning the raid on Dr. Hany Babu’s house

Babu is not the first one to come under the scrutiny of the state in the Elgar Parishad case. His colleague, G.N. Saibaba, accused of having Maoist links with banned outfits, was arrested and attacked as a prime suspect in the case. Veteran author-poet P Varvara Rao, lawyers Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves, and activist Sudha Bhardwaj were also arrested and termed as “Urban Naxals”’ by the police.

Kawalpreet Kaur, Delhi President of the All India Students Association (AISA), was also actively involved in the protest. She said, “We stand in full support of Professor Hany, what we are seeing today is a part of a continuous series of attacks on various intellectuals in universities. Bhima Koregaon has become this battlefield where all progressive people who have been voicing and writing against the Modi-Shah government are under big attack and so is the case with Hany Babu. Attack on him is a part of a series of attacks to silence political questions, important questions being asked from the government over the rights of the marginalized communities.”

Amidst all the attacks on free speech and the culture of dissent, the universities seem to have stood tall and strong in raising their voice against injustice. The protest only bears testimony to that.


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