Academics from all over the country are speaking about Porf. Hany Babu. Below are the comments from Prof. Apoorvanand Professor, University of Delhi; Souradeep, Writer and Professor at Ashoka University and an excerpt from the Statement of Condemnation issued by All India Forum for Right to Education against his arrest.
Last year, my father called me and informed me that, “It is being reported on the TV that the police have raided the house of a professor of University of Delhi. Immediately I asked “Is it Dr. Hany Babu’s house? ”. I still do not know why my first thought was about Dr. Hany Babu. Probably due to the fact that Hany Babu had shouldered a very dangerous position as the Chairman of the Committee for the Defence of Sai Baba formed when another professor at Delhi University, GN Saibaba, was arrested by the police.
Prof. Apoorvanand, who teaches Hindi at the University of Delhi and was himself recently subjected to psychological violence by the Delhi police in the farce of investigation about North East Delhi pogrom.
Prof. Apporvanand says- Prof GN Sai Baba was arrested by the government on charges of involvement with the Maoist party and was sentenced in 2017. Dr. Hany Babu shouldered the responsibilities of the Committee for the Defence of Saibaba which intended to make the public aware of the facts against the ones he was charged with and to ensure that GN Saibaba’s human and constitutional rights are not violated. As a result of his relentless efforts to, the attacks by the state on the wheelchair-bound activist working for the people and an intellectual, Prof GN Saibaba was made public.
When Dr. Hany Babu was arrested on 28th July 2020, we all felt painful that we didn’t know when would we again have a chance to peek into Dr. Hany Babu’s classes which used to be filled up with students listening to his enchanting words as we walked past the corridors of the university. While running across the corridors between classes, we would now not get to see Dr. Hany Babu smiling at us. This left us dejected.
‘Hany Babu’s arrest was not an unexpected one at least for me. All of his friends and colleagues had long ago had understood that his commitment to the protection of the Constitutional Rights of the Dalit and Marginalized communities and his willingness to confront and overcome whatever obstructed him from working towards his commitment, could be dangerous to the present regime. However, we are very worried about the reason that National Investigation Agency (NIA) has noted to raid his house once in 2019 and again on 28th July 2020, and to call him for trials at Mumbai.
According to the NIA, one of the strongest reasons for Hany Babu’s arrest is that he was spreading anti-government and pro-Naxalite ideologies. This very argument is very strange to me. First, the NIA has not specified what is a pro-Naxalist ideology; this definition is very vague. Anyone dissenting against the government can easily be booked under this definition. Also, even if Hany Babu was dissenting against the government, how is it a justified reason for an arrest?
Why do we forget that the leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the leaders of the state have for more than 60 years been campaigning against the ruling governments and are exercising their democratic rights?
Another allegation made by the NIA is that the computer hard disk confiscated from Hany Babu’s house had evidence that he was in contact with the Maoists and the blueprint of attacks to be made to uproot the government. The NIA wants us to believe that there was a blueprint of the most dangerous subversive attacks on the government on the desktop of a professor who did not even have a password, so anyone can get access to his computer. We can understand that such claims were made to falsely accuse Hany Babu and other intellectuals. We also witness that these kinds of accusations were also made against the other arrested intellectuals’.
These issues should concern not only the friends and well-wishers of Hany Babu but also all those who respect and wish to uphold the rights that the Constitution of India provides to all its citizens. In case the practice of suppression and arrests of the voices dissenting against government policies or against the ideologies of the ruling party or its aids, or to speak on behalf of the oppressed is prevalent in society, it would mean that anyone at any point of time would fall victim to such evil practices. We must be aware and cautious about this. Therefore, it becomes the duty of all democrats to protest against the detention of one of our close associates, Dr Hany Babu, and to present the facts about him to the society.
Dr Hany Babu was born in Kerala in 1971 when the most vulnerable and oppressed communities of the country were asserting their existence through newer forms of struggles. Dr. Hany Babu pursued his graduation and post-graduation on the subject of English Literature and Linguistics from the University of Calicut, after which he chose the prestigious Central Institute of Foreign Languages, Hyderabad for undertaking research. Here, he undertook research on English Language and Phonetics and performed well in his Ph.D. Dr. Hany Babu was always interested in the relationship that India’s marginalized communities shared with the English language. He has always wanted to teach English to everyone so that people could speak fluently in English overcoming the obstacles of one’s social location, background, and lack of opportunities. In pursuance of his wish, he returned to CIFL in Hyderabad where he started teaching. He later went on to become a dear faculty to his students at the University of Delhi.
Dr. Hany Babu who was a profound practitioner of Ambedkarism always inspired everyone to learn about the true aspirations of the Constitution. Souradeep Roy, who was mentored by Dr Hany Babu in his MPhil course at the University of Delhi recalled Dr. Hany Babu that ‘He had a very strong belief in the progressive and transformative capacity of the Constitution. He encouraged all students his students to study the Constitution in relation to the social realities of India. He held Ambedkarite movement and its thought very close to his heart.’
A look at some of the recent writings of Dr. Hany Babu provides us a clearer introduction to his social concerns and his critical responses to contemporary issues. Breaking the ‘Chaturvarnya system of Languages: The Need to overhaul the language police’ (Economic and Political Weekly, June 10, 2017 LII 23: 112-119); ‘Converging struggles and Diverging interests: A look at at the recent unrest in universities’ (September 15th, Café Dissensus); ‘Unequal rights: Freedom, equality, life and liberty of citizens and “others”‘.
Dr. Hany Babu was continually involved not just in research and teaching, but also in social movements. One could note the presence of Dr. Hany Babu in the tents that the students would put up in the university during protests and hunger strikes at least for some time every day. He was a fearless voice. He did not try to protect or cover up the issue but stood for justice even when some colleagues in his own department were accused of sexual harassment.
India needs such fearless minds not just today but every day.
Translated from Kannada to English by Shashank SR