IN the 12th arrest in the Elgar Parishad case of December 2017, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday took into custody Delhi University associate professor Hany Babu MT.
Babu, who is with the university’s Department of English, was put under arrest after three days of questioning in Mumbai. In a statement, the NIA said “accused Hany Babu Musaliyarveettil Tharayil was propagating Naxal activities and Maoist ideology and was a co-conspirator with other arrested accused (in the Elgar Parishad case)”.
The 54-year-old associate professor had been delivered summons on July 14 for appearance before the investigating officer in Mumbai, the next day. He arrived on July 24 for questioning.
Babu’s wife Jenny Rowena, who teaches at Delhi University’s Miranda House, called his arrest a “a joke and farce”.
“Some officer called me around 5 pm and said Hany Babu was being arrested. I asked if I could talk to him, but they refused. This arrest is ridiculous,” she said.
NIA officials claim to have proof of Babu’s links with other accused in the case such as Rona Wilson. In September 2019, Babu’s home in NCR had been searched by the Pune police, which first registered a case in the matter. It had booked Babu under charges of sedition and taken away two laptops, a mobile phone and pen drives along with two books.
The Pune police claimed to have recovered a letter from Wilson, arrested from Delhi in June 2018, in which a suspected undercover Maoist leader makes mention of a “Comrade H.B” in connection with the “solidarity movement in support of Comrade Sai (G N Saibaba)”. The police said they suspected that H.B was Hany Babu.
Saibaba is a Delhi University professor convicted for alleged Maoist links, and Babu has been associated with a committee for his ‘Defence and Release’.
This is the third arrest since the NIA took over the Elgar Parishad case earlier this year, after activists Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha. Babu had been vocal against their arrests.
Officials said Babu would be questioned about the electronic items seized from him. At the time of the seizures, Babu had said he had been forced to share his passwords, and the officers had taken over his accounts and blocked access to them.
Rowena said when Babu received the summons around two weeks ago, he had told the NIA he couldn’t comply due to the pandemic. “They said he would get a week’s extension but he would have to come. On Friday he went to Mumbai with just one extra pair of clothes and his mobile charger, because everyone said he would just be questioned as a witness since he was in the Committee for the Defence and Release of G N Saibaba,” she said.
Rowena said Babu told her they questioned him about the committee and a folder on his laptop with “highly incriminating material”. “They said it was a ‘My Documents’ folder with only one subfolder, which had letters written by other people mentioning him, and one written by him to someone else. But his (Babu’s) ‘My Documents’ folder does not look like that. It had subfolders called ‘Life’, ‘Love’, ‘Linguistics’ etc,” said Rowena.
“They kept asking him to explain these letters. He asked them why he would keep a folder with such incriminating material on his laptop after so many others were arrested. They then asked him if Rona’s (Wilson) assistant had put it in his laptop, or any of his students. They kept pressuring him and said if he can explain how it was on his laptop, they would let him go. But he just said it was not his folder,” she added.
Earlier this month, the NIA was granted 90 more days to file a chargesheet against Teltumbde and Navlakha in the Elgar Parishad case, with a special court accepting its plea that it had failed to make any “substantive progress in the investigation” on account of the lockdown. The agency has been opposing their bail applications.
The NIA is probing the charge that “provocative speeches” made at an Elgar Parishad event on December 31, 2017, had led to the caste violence in Bhima Koregaon in Pune the next day, which had later spread to other parts of Maharashtra. The NIA claims that members of the Elgar Parishad were in touch with senior Maoist leaders.
with inputs from Chandan Hayagunde, Pune
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