‘His arrest is an example of state repression’: Hany Babu’s students denounce his arrest by the NIA

The Delhi University professor’s wife Jenny Rowena said that legal recourse is the family’s way ahead.

WrittenBy:Kanwaraj Singh Sidhu
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Update: On August 2, Hany Babu's wife Jenny Rowena claimed that officers from the NIA visited their home early in the morning for "evidence collection". She said that they took away hard drives, pen rives and receipts connected to defence committee. Babu has been the convener of the defence committee for G.N Saibaba, who was arrested over charges of allegedly having Maoist links.

On July 28, the National Investigative Agency announced the latest in its string of arrests in the Bhima Koregaon case: the arrest of Professor Hany Babu. Babu is an associate professor teaching linguistics at the Department of English at Delhi University, and a known anti-caste activist.

The Bhima Koregaon case relates to the clashes that erupted after bicentennial celebrations of the Battle of Koregaon in Maharashtra on December 31, 2017. The battle, where a small contingent of Mahars defeated a massive Peshwa army, is an important part of Dalit history, though it receives pushback from upper caste and right-wing groups.

Several activists have already been controversially arrested in the case and accused of having ties to the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). The accused include Varavara Rao, Rona Wilson, Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha and Sudha Bharadwaj.

Babu, according to a press release from the NIA, faces similar charges. He is also accused of “propagating Naxal activities and Maoist ideology and was a co-conspirator with other arrested accused”. Babu, who lives in Noida, was summoned by the NIA to Mumbai — an act that he called “harassment” by the state, given that the country is in the midst of a pandemic. After three days of questioning in Mumbai, he was put under arrest.

Dr Jenny Rowena, a professor of English at Delhi University’s Miranda House and Babu’s wife, told Newslaundry that the way ahead is legal recourse.

“We are not even connected to left-wing activism, we are part of the Bahujan movement,” Rowena said. “My husband and I are both from the south and were hence actively involved in GN Saibaba’s case, where we also met Rona Wilson through the committee that was set up for his defence. They are just using this connection to prove a relationship with the left-wing.”

GN Saibaba is a former Delhi University professor who is serving a life term for alleged Maoist links, convicted under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Saibaba is in poor health and earlier this week, the Bombay High Court rejected his bail plea.

On the evidence against her husband, Rowena said: “The Caravan team’s examination already proved in the case of Rona Wilson that there is some kind of fabrication of evidence using malware. And I think something similar has been done again.”

She continued: “The only way ahead for us is to use legal recourse. Babu travelled to Mumbai with a lawyer and they have engaged another lawyer into their team there. I am personally busy with the legal team, but I have seen a lot of support from the public, which is putting pressure for the release of Babu as well.”

Newslaundry also spoke to some of Babu’s students, who described his arrest as an attack on dissent.

“Dissent is a social right given to every citizen irrespective of their identity in any democracy,” said a 22-year-old second-year Masters student at the English department in Delhi University. “He [Babu] once told us that he believed that the class should be a democratic space where each person should be allowed to speak and question, and that says a lot about him as an individual. He is a very accommodating and well-informed professor and was always calm in his dealing with the students.”

Simi Nath, a second-year student of the MA English programme, is also one of Babu’s students. She said, “The arrest of Hany Babu is an example of state repression of intellectuals and activists. The state is harassing him for no reason for almost a year now. Last year, the police raided his house without a warrant and took his laptop and stuff.” A team of the Pune police had raided Babu’s house in September 2019.

Another student, Betsame Lamar, told Newslaundry: “To see one's professor getting arrested is not only a disheartening scene but strangely, more often than not, becomes a distressing episode, indicating the uncanny rise of unfortunate events wherein principles which are theorised and expounded become the very principle of allegations. This is an attack that is not limited to the department, but on academia and, as a whole, the cultures of critique and dissent.”

Left-leaning student organisations such as the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association, the All India Students Association, and the Delhi state committee of the Students' Federation of India have come out in support of Babu, and have called for the release of him and other political prisoners. Babu was produced in front of an NIA special court on July 29 and the NIA was given further custody for interrogation until August 4, which is the date for Babu’s bail hearing.


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