For six hours beginning 6.30am, the group — Pune Police personnel, some in uniform, some in civvies — remained in Delhi University assistant professor Hany Babu’s flat. It was described as a “search and seizure” operation linked to the Elgar Parishad probe, in which Pune police have arrested several academics and activists for alleged Maoist links.
Shivaji Pawar, ACP (Pune police), investigating officer in the case, said no arrest was made on Tuesday. “We did a search operation at Babu’s residence in connection with the Elgar Parishad case,” Pawar said. Babu, 45, who is part of the English faculty at DU’s north campus and has been teaching at the varsity for over a decade, told TOI that the 20-odd cops were mostly interested in his books and electronic material.
‘Books on terror don’t make me a terrorist’
Babu said the Pune cops were mostly interested in the books he had and nothing else. “I have books on terrorism. That doesn’t make me a terrorist. So, a book on Maoism will make me a Maoist?” he said.
The raid was strongly condemned by the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA), which described it as an attack on academic freedom and on freedom of expression that went against the very essence of democracy. “Not only has he (Hany Babu) been an outstanding teacher, he has also been an active participant in struggles for academic freedom, democratic rights, lawful and democratic functioning of the university, equal access to university education and social justice,” a DUTA statement said.
Pune police commissioner K Venkatesham told TOI that Babu’s house was searched to “verify his role” after his name surfaced during the arrests of earlier accused in the Elgar Parishad case. “We have seized some hard disks from his residence. We shall get them forensically analysed before deciding on further course of action,” he said.
“Babu was in touch with G N Saibaba (a DU professor convicted and sentenced to life in March 2017 by a Maharashtra court for Maoist links) and was also in contact with all the accused arrested earlier,” Venkatesham added.
Nine people have been arrested so far in the Elgar Parishad probe, which is now in a pre-trial stage. They are lodged in Pune’s Yerawada central jail under judicial custody. Babu’s name does not figure either in the FIR or the two chargesheets filed so far before a special Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) court in Pune.
Though Babu said the police produced no warrant, a statement put out by the Pune police said the proceedings were video-recorded, reasons for the search were explained to him in English, and a copy of the seizure “panchnama” was given to him. Noida police chief Vaibhav Krishna said the Pune team was led by DCP (crime branch) Bachchan Singh. “UP police was kept in the loop and Sector 49 police station officers and staff provided logistical support,” Krishna said.
Babu said the police team had a witness from Pune. “I am consulting lawyers. I will need to defend my rights since these searches were without a warrant. It is not a healthy procedure in a democracy. They said there was no need for a warrant,” he said. Talking about the material confiscated, he said two laptops, one of which was a university property, all hard drives, pen drives and his mobile phone were seized.
“They took the password of all my email ids and changed them. I can’t access any of my emails. They took three-four books. Two of them were booklets published by the “defence committee” for the release of G N Saibaba, one was a book titled ‘Jati to Varna’. I don’t remember the author of the other book, ‘Understanding Maoism’,” he said.
“I told them, ‘See, I have books on RSS and Kashmir also. Why are you taking these books only?’ They mentioned the Elgaar Parishad case and that in the investigation, my name had come up. They also asked me if I knew Rona Wilson. I told them I knew Rona and Surendra Gadling. Gadling is Saibaba’s advocate and Wilson is part of the ‘defence committee’ and a friend. How does that make me involved in the case?”
He added, “I told them they can look at any material but if they seize my email id, mobile and laptop, it is as good as taking my life away. It’s my academic work, everything is there. They then said everything will be given back.”
Babu said his daughter had not been allowed to go to school during the search. Early morning, I was just getting up when they rang the bell. It was a big team of police that had come. Thankfully, they did not take anything of my wife. They did not touch her laptop. But they searched her book shelf. Even my daughter’s book shelf was searched.” Babu’s wife Jenny Rowena teaches English at Miranda House.
Students of Delhi University’s English department have announced a protest against the search at North Campus on Wednesday.
The probe relates to the Elgar Parishad, held in the city on December 31, 2017, ahead of the 200th anniversary of the battle of Koregaon Bhima. It is being alleged that the Parishad was supported and funded by the banned CPI (Maoist) as part of a larger conspiracy to create social unrest, chaos and overthrow the government. It is the police’s case that alleged inflammatory speeches at the Parishad contributed to the January 1, 2018 caste clash at Koregaon Bhima.
(Reporting by Shikha Salaria in Noida, Shradha Chettri in Delhi, and Asseem Sheikh & Vishwas Kothari in Pune)