Academic and social activist Ram Puniyani (73) on Thursday lodged a complaint with the Mumbai Police after he allegedly received a call threatening him to stop his “anti-Hindu” activities.
On Thursday evening, Puniyani received a call on his home landline and was allegedly threatened by a male caller who did not identify himself. “He hurled a lot of abuses at me. Then he said that you are against us and you are anti-Hindu. You speak and write against us. He said I must stop all this within 15 days or he will see what to do,” Puniyani told The Indian Express.
Puniyani, a former professor of biomedical engineering at IIT-Bombay, has been campaigning for communal harmony for several years and runs a YouTube channel that has over 1.75 lakh subscribers. He also writes on his website pluralindia.com.
A non-cognisible offence was registered against unidentified persons at Powai police station on Thursday for criminal intimidation. The accused rang up Puniyani’s home phone at 8.40 pm, used abusive language and threatened to kill him unless he discontinued his writings on non-violence, said Mumbai Police spokesperson, DCP Manjunath Singe. Police are tracking down the callers on two mobile phone numbers from which the calls were made. “The call was made on the landline but we could trace the number using a caller ID. I have given the number to police,” said Puniyani.
Puniyani said this is the first time that he has received such a threat call; however, he had some suspicious men visit his residence in Powai in March. “On March 9, some unidentified visitors had come to my residence under the pretext of my passport verification. When my wife told them that I had not applied for a passport they immediately changed their stance, made some inquiries about me and some members of my family. This is the first time I have received such a call but in the background of the visit in March this all seemed suspicious to me,” he said.
When asked if he suspected anyone, Puniyani said, “I have been working on this issue of communal harmony and I have been writing regularly. I have been posting videos on my YouTube channel practically every week for the last one year. Probably some people belonging to Hindu nationalism, they don’t like this. That is my suspicion. My suspicion is towards an ideology, not a person.”
Puniyani said he had earlier received similar threats on email about four years ago that he had ignored.
Support poured in for Puniyani on Friday as civil society members demanded a speedy investigation. In a statement endorsed by 13 organisations including All India Secular Forum, Bharat Bachao Andolan and Centre for Justice and Peace, their members said, “These repeated threats pose great risk and danger to Dr Puniyani, who has been a strong secular voice and crusader for communal harmony. This is nothing but an attempt to silence his voice and curb his emphatic efforts towards spreading the message of peace and harmony.”
The statement also said, “Already we have witnessed grave attacks on and assassinations of rationalists and secular thinkers, including Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Prof Govind Pansare, Prof Kalburgi and journalist Gauri Lankesh, amongst others. Several writers, journalists, RTI activists, artists, lawyers etc have been under attack by right wing forces. In light of these recent attacks, it is important that the police authorities and state administration take serious note of and prompt action in this case, and take all measures to ensure safety of Dr Puniyani and his family.”