Delhi University teacher arrested by NIA in Bhima case
The National Investigation Agency on Tuesday arrested Delhi University associate professor Hany Babu M.T. in the Bhima-Koregaon case, which links an Ambedkarite event in Pune in 2017 to an alleged Maoist plot to target the Prime Minister’s rallies.
Hany Babu was arrested after five days of NIA questioning in Mumbai, where he had been summoned from here. He is the 12th person to be arrested in the case, where the accused include lawyers, academics, litterateurs and rights activists.
An outspoken English teacher, Hany Babu was active in the Committee for Defence and Release of G.N. Saibaba, a disabled Delhi University professor serving a life sentence in Nagpur since 2014 for alleged Maoist links. He had earlier been known for his activism for the implementation of OBC reservation in higher education.
“During investigation, it was revealed that senior leaders of CPI (Maoist), an organisation banned under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, were in contact with the organisers of Elgar Parishad (the Ambedkarite event) as well as the accused arrested in the case to spread the ideology of Maoism/Naxalism and encourage unlawful activities,” an NIA statement 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 has consistently denied any links with the CPI Maoist or any role in organising the Elgaar Parishad, a public meeting presided over by former Bombay High Court judge B.G. Kolse-Patil in Pune on December 31, 2017.
The event was meant to commemorate the bicentenary of the Battle of Koregaon in which the largely Dalit forces of the East India Company defeated the Peshwa's army.
Right-wing groups allegedly attacked the annual Ambedkarite pilgrimage to the victory monument near the river Bhima, outside Pune, on January 1, 2018. Now the Elgaar Parishad is being probed for incitement of the violence as well as Maoist links.
Before the case was handed over to the NIA in January this year, Pune police had filed a chargesheet and a supplementary chargesheet listing 23 accused, including Mupalla Lakshmana Rao alias Ganapathy, general secretary of the CPI Maoist.
The supplementary chargesheet accused Telugu poet Varavara Rao of receiving arms from Basanta, a Maoist from Nepal. In jail in Maharashtra since 2018, the 79-year-old Rao is now suffering from dementia besides Covid-19 and other serious ailments, and is admitted to the Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai.
A Hyderabad-based journalist, Kranti Tekula, is being questioned by the NIA in Mumbai.
Besides Rao and Hany Babu, those imprisoned in the case include lawyers Surendra Gadling, Sudha Bharadwaj and Arun Ferreira; academics Shoma Sen and Vernon Gonsalves; litterateur Sudhir Dhawale; academic Anand Teltumbde; and rights activists Rona Wilson, Gautam Navlakha and Mahesh Raut -- a former Prime Minister Rural Development Fellow.
On Tuesday night, 36 organisations including fronts of the CPI, CPM and the CPIML Liberation condemned Hany Babu's arrest in a statement, released under the banner of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR).
“Cooperating with the NIA since July 24th 2020, it quickly became clear that the questioning was merely a ruse to force Prof Babu into providing false testimony against other persons and accepting allegations of being a functionary of the Maoists,” the statement said.
“Prof Babu vehemently and consistently refused to agree to these ridiculous lies. It is because of this that after five days of continuous harassment in the name of interrogation, the NIA, despite his presence in the NIA office, has now made him an accused and formally arrested him and is ironically seeking custodial interrogation. In September 2019, Prof Babu was subjected to a raid without a search warrant at his residence by the Maharashtra police.
“While several electronic devices and books were seized, no hash value of any of the devices confiscated (was) provided. This violation of procedure has left the seized devices open to tampering.”
A hash value is the digital equivalent of a fingerprint for files on a computer.
“The investigating agencies have repeatedly denied the hash value of the confiscated devices that can actually reveal the timestamp of activities on the device. In fact, it is clear now that there is a pattern of confiscating devices, planting fabricated evidence and conducting a media trial on this basis. Unfortunately, the courts have also turned a blind eye to these illegalities,” the statement said.
“Arrest of Hany Babu by the NIA shows for a fact that the entire conspiracy hatched in the aftermath of the violence at Bhima Koregaon is intended to incarcerate and silence a range of activists who have been speaking about the anti-people policies of the State. This is also being done to divert attention away from the true perpetrators of the violence, Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, both with ties to the RSS. It is intended to spread fear among the democratic and progressive-spirited academics, activists, artists, journalists, lawyers, poets and trade unionists.”
The CASR has demanded the release of all political prisoners, including the accused in the Elgaar Parishad case and others imprisoned under anti-terror laws.