Students and colleagues of Delhi University English professor Dr Hany Babu Wednesday protested at the Arts Faculty against the police search at his house in connection with the Elgaar Parishad case. Eight teachers of the English department also released a statement condemning the search.
The teachers include Heads of Department Raj Kumar, Rimli Bhattacharya, Tapan Basu, Prasanta Chakravarty, Subarno Chattarji, Priya Kumar, Ira Raja and Haris Qadeer. The teachers said they were “shocked and outraged at the sudden and unexplained raid”. They claimed that while the search was on, Babu, his wife Jenny Rowena who teaches English at Miranda House, and their daughter were “prevented from communicating with any of their neighbours or friends”.
“Dr Hany Babu is a respected academic with impeccable professional credentials. We strongly condemn the invasion of privacy of an individual and his family without any legal document, and further, his undue intimidation and seizing from his home his precious teaching and research material, as being violative of the norms of any law-abiding and democratic society,” they said.
At Arts Faculty, several students taught by Babu as well as his peers from other colleges came to express solidarity. The idea of a student-teacher defence committee for Babu was also floated.
Iqra Raza, a final-year English MA student who had come for the protest, said Babu was not just a great teacher, but an “amazing human being”.
“He teaches us linguistics. In his lectures, he always presses on the idea of equality.”
Shivam Verma, another student, described Babu as a “professor par excellence”. “For a teacher, his life and work is in the laptop and hard disks. Not just his own, but years of research work of students would be in those files. It’s really sad that they went after all these things and his books. We students also have so many books, are we also criminals?”
Karen Gabriel, who teaches English at St Stephens’ College, said the recent trend was to brand everyone an urban naxal. “We need to prepare ourselves for worse that is to come. There is a pattern emerging against intellectuals who speak up for the marginalised… If they had not found books at Hany Babu’s home, that would have been a problem, not that there were books. I don’t think we should be apologetic about what we think and do. We should recommit ourselves to campaign for the right to speak and think,” she said.
Ira Raja, Babu’s colleague who also signed the statement, said she found it “bizarre” that libraries of professors were being targeted. “Now simply reading books is a problem. The kind of book you read has itself become incriminating,” she said.
The JNU Teachers’ Association also released a statement in support of Babu.
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