top of page

Arrest of Professors And Academicians With Emphasis On The Bhima Koregaon Case: Pandemic Politics?

Despite having the freedom of speech and expression and dissent, countless professors, activists, students and doctors have been arrested. The notices were served at the peak of the lockdown.

Bhima Koregaon Village

Individuals like Dr Kafeel Khan, Umar Khalid, Akhil Gogoi, Safoora Zargar, Devanagna Kalita and Natasha Narwal have been arrested in connection with the Anti-CAA movement. It is to be noted that, Safoora Zargar, JNU student and participant of anti-CAA protests was granted bail on humanitarian grounds by the court. ABVP members like Komal Sharma identified on camera during the violent attack on JNU in February is still out in the open. Along with these arrests, there are people being brought under fire for the Bhima Koregaon Elgar Parishad mob violence (which will be discussed in detail later) that took place in 2018 in Mumbai. The use of draconian laws like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act makes it difficult to guarantee bail. Moreover, substantial evidence is not being presented to the so called accused to validate the ground of arrest. In case of the anti-CAA protests, participating in a protest is not a criminal offence. The media has pushed a different angle labeling these individuals as ‘anti-national’ thereafter, presenting a biased notion.

To understand things, it is important to understand the rigidity of the UAPA 2019. The Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment (UAPA) Bill is an anti-terror legislation that seeks to designate an individual as a “terrorist”. The words “terror” or “terrorist” are not defined, but the UAPA Bill in Section 15 defines a “terrorist act” as any act committed with intent to threaten or likely to threaten the unity, integrity, security, economic security, or sovereignty of India or with intent to strike terror or likely to strike terror in the people or any section of the people in India or in any foreign country. Home Minister Amit Shah, during a debate on the Bill in Lok Sabha, stressed on the need to designate individuals as terrorists to root out terrorism. The existing UAPA law specifies that only officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police of the NIA shall have the power to investigate offences under the UAPA law. The Bill seeks to allow NIA officers of Inspector rank to carry out investigations.

Coming back to the Bhima Koregaon Elgar Parishad which dates back to 2018 in Mumbai, a mass protest which resulted in violence. Bhima Koregaon has historic presence. In the battle of Bhima Koregaon, a few hundred Mahar (Lower Caste) soldiers of the East India Company defeated a massive upper caste dominated force of Peshwa Bajirao, the second. Since the first commemoration gathering in 1928 under Dr Ambedkar, the victory of the battle has become a symbol for Dalit pride. Lakhs of Dalits gather to mark the occasion on 1st January. 2018 was a special year since it marked the 200th anniversary of the victory. According to eye witnesses, right wing groups carrying saffron flags started pelting stones at the crowd of Dalits assembled at Bhima Koregaon. Many vehicles were also torched and the police had to resort to measures like tear gas. One person succumbed in this. There were two investigations; one was on the violence itself. The other led to the ban of Communist Party in India (Maoist). It is alleged by the police that through this event, CPI (M) orchestrated the violence. In relation to this, the police brought up a strange theory of the assassination of PM Modi. Using all this, the state machinery has been hunting down individuals and even people who are not remotely related to the violence. The evidence used is shoddy for its all in electronic form and the police alleged has not followed the due process.

Hany Babu is an associate professor of the Department of English at Delhi University. His house was raided by the Maharashtra Police in September 2019 as part of the investigation into violence that broke out. After 10 months on July 11 he was summoned by the NIA to appear before it in Mumbai during the pandemic. He was formally arrested on July 23rd, 2020.

Rakesh Rajan, professor of Economics at Shri Ram College of Commerce in Delhi University has been summoned for questioning in connection with the Elgar Parishad Case.

Dr PK Vijayan, assistant professor in the Department of English at Hindu College in Delhi University has been summoned by the NIA under the UAPA in connection with the 2018 violence at Bhima Koregaon.

Apart from this, VV Rao who was also arrested pertaining to this case was shifted to a hospital after his health deteriorated.

Student collectives and organisations have come to defence of the ones accused, Petitions have been doing rounds on social media demanding release. The state machinery has stifled dissent. This calls for public intimidation of academicians by the establishment which is widely condemned.

bottom of page