A day after Maharashtra police conducted a search at Delhi University professor Hany Babu’s house in relation to the 2017 Elgar Parishad case, students and teachers gathered outside the Faculty of Arts complex on Wednesday to protest against the move amid heavy police presence.
“Whatever is happening is scary. We cannot do a lot, but it is necessary to come out and speak up about the undemocratic nature of this incident,” said Stuti Verma, an undergraduate student at the university.
On Tuesday morning, Pune police conducted a six-hour search and seized the professor’s laptop, mobile phone, pen drive, and hard disks, Hany said in a statement.
His wife Jenny Rowena, a teacher at Miranda House, said that N Venugopal’s Understanding Maoists, Naxalite leader Yalavarthi Naveen Babu’s MPhil dissertation, From Varna to Jati: Political Economy of Caste in Indian Social Formation, and two booklets of Saibaba defence committee were the books seized on Tuesday.
Hany is also the convener of the Committee for Defence and Release of GN Saibaba — a former DU professor who is serving a life term for links with banned CPI (Maoist).
“All his work is there on the laptop which was seized. He is working on a book on linguistics which is also there. We don’t have a hard copy or a backup because we never thought something like this would happen,” Rowena added.
The call for the protest was given by students of the English department on Tuesday night after at least 450 students signed a statement extending solidarity towards Hany, who teaches at the varsity’s English department. The JNU teachers’ association and DU teachers’ association too condemned the “attack on academic freedom.”
Shivam Varma, Hany’s student at DU, said, “Professors mostly have their books and work on the laptop that has been seized. So many research scholars are working under him and that material too is there. So this entire incident matters to the university.”
His classmate Abhishek Aman added, “It is sad that his books were seized. Recently, questions were raised after someone had a copy of War and Peace in their house. How will we learn if we don’t read books? Will students also be arrested now?”
“It is a sign of things to come,” Karen Gabriel, Hany’s colleague and head of English department at St Stephen’s College, said. “No search warrant was procured for the arrest. This is a violation of rights. Before GN Saibaba’s arrest, the same pattern of search, follow, question and arrest is being followed now.”