Is freedom of expression in danger! JNUTA condemns raid at DU Prof’s house

Is freedom of expression in danger! JNUTA condemns raid at DU Prof's house

The Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers Association (JNUTA) on Wednesday condemned the raid conducted by Pune Police at the Noida residence of Dr Hany Babu of the English Department, University of Delhi, in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case.

The Association expressed its shock in the incident while terming it as an ‘ongoing authoritarian attempt’ by the current regime to intimidate and silence activists, writers, professors, journalists, and human rights defenders across the country.
The raid on Dr Babu’s residence was held on September 10, allegedly in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon and Elgaar Parishad case for alleged Maoist links.

Dr Babu, in his statement, has revealed that the Pune Police did not produce any search warrant, and that they have seized his laptops, external hard drives, pen drives, and mobile phone, which contain most of his past and ongoing academic work. They have also blocked his access to his email and social media accounts.

“Like in the case of the others accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, and also witnessed in the recent ‘sedition’ charges against JNU student activist Shehla Rashid, this raid at the residence of Dr Hany Babu is yet another instance of the extent to which the defence of human rights and speaking for the dispossessed is being criminalised in the country today,” the JNUTA said in a statement.

”This raid on also foregrounds the heights that police paranoia about critique and dissent has scaled, so much so that reading and writing are now seen to be suspicious activities. Like in the raid on Prof. Satyanarayana in EFL University in Hyderabad last year, the police spent an inordinate amount of time going through Dr Babu’s book collection, ultimately settling on confiscating two books that are freely available in the public domain, and not on any list of banned publications,” it said.

The JNUTA sees this one act as embodying a message being sent out to all academics if you read (or write) about what a ruling dispensation determines to be impermissible, expect the state to come calling.

”This message is a warning to all academics to fall in line through self-censorship on what they read and write and to give up on the academic ideals of rational evaluation as the basis of critique or endorsement. The JNUTA condemns this chilling of academic freedom and stands in solidarity with Dr Hany Babu,” the statement 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. The search of Dr Hany Babu’s house without a warrant, when his name figures nowhere on the FIR made out in the Bhima Koregaon case was blatantly illegal, and intended to intimidate and harass him,” it said.

”Dr Babu is a highly respected academic scholar, and has been a strong voice for academic freedom, inclusive and accessible public education, and democratic and civil liberties. His wife Dr Jenny Rowena teaches English at Miranda House, University of Delhi. Both of them have been outstanding teachers and active participants in the struggles of the teaching community against institutionalised caste discrimination, the dilution of affirmative action in the form of reservations in teaching positions, and in the defence of the human rights of the disabled colleague and activist Prof GN Saibaba,” it added. (UNI)