“Your husband is a Dalit, so he does not follow any tradition. But you are a Brahmin, so why are you not wearing any jewellery or sindoor? Why are you not dressed like a traditional wife? Does the daughter have to be like the father too?’’
These were some of the questions a police officer asked K Pavana, wife of Professor K Satyanarayana, who heads the Department of Cultural Studies at the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) in Hyderabad, while searching their house on the EFLU campus Tuesday.
Pavana is the daughter of writer-activist Varavara Rao, one of five rights activists and lawyers arrested Tuesday by Pune police as part of a probe into an alleged Maoist link to a meeting of the Elgaar Parishad in Pune on the eve of the January 1 violence at Bhima Koregaon.
Satyanarayana, whose house was searched by a team of Pune policemen and Telangana Special Intelligence Bureau, said it was a “traumatic and humiliating experience” as the policemen asked him and his wife “infuriating and silly questions”.
“First they said that they were looking for Varavara Rao, my father-in-law. When they did not find him, they started searching the bookshelves, cupboards and attic. They said they were looking for anything to link me to Maoists. They asked if Varavara Rao hid anything in my house. Twenty policemen from Pune and Telangana Police occupied my house from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm and ransacked everything,’’ Satyanarayana said.
“They asked me, why are there so many books in your house? Do you read all of them? Why purchase so many books? Why do you read so many books? Why are you reading books on Mao and Marx? Why do you have books published in China? Why do you have songs of Gaddar? Why are there photos of Phule and Ambedkar in your house, but no photos of gods?’’ he said.
One officer, Satyanarayana said, pointed to the books and told him he was “reading too many books” and “spoiling students”.
“As an academician and professor in a top university, I felt very insulted and humiliated. As academicians, we read different kinds of books, whether it is belongs to ideologies of Left, Right, Dalits… it does not matter. They questioned me about every book related to Dalits, books that had red covers,’’ he said.
He said the police took away his “20 years of literary works” stored in his computer, laptop and external hard disk including drafts of his two books, literature papers, soft copies of books purchased online, research material on Dalit literature.
“They have set back my academic career by 20-25 years. I don’t know if I will ever recover from this. They have taken away everything stored on the computers and I don’t have copies of it. The updated drafts of my books No Alphabet In Sight and Steel Nibs Are Sprouting, which is a collection of works of 40 Dalit writers from south India, were in my MacBook Pro. When I asked them when will they return these, they said I have to go and make a petition to claim it all back,’’ he said.
“I am teaching a new course on research methods in cultural studies and I had collected teaching material from about 50 books, sharing it with my students daily via Dropbox and email. All that material in the hard disk was taken away. Now it will take several months to gather the material and start teaching,’’ he said.
He said when he asked the policemen why were they searching his house, he was told that was because he was the son-in-law of Varavara Rao.
“My own identity as a reputed professor in a reputed university was brushed aside. They made me feel like a criminal, hiding something in the house. They forced me to give passwords of email IDs too. They kept telling me if I did not do as they asked, they would report that I did not cooperate in the search. They lectured me on why I do not advise my father-in-law not to support or follow Maoist ideology. They told me that since Varavara Rao had become old, he should now retire and live happily,’’ he said.
When The Indian Express sought his comments on the questions asked by policemen in the search team, Pune Joint Commissioner of Police Shivaji Bodkhe said: “These are completely false allegations. No such questions were asked. The raids were conducted as per procedure.”— With ENS, Pune