A group of over 300 students of Delhi University professor MT Hany Babu on Friday released a statement in solidarity with the activist and said the National Investigation Agency’s warrant against him was a “direct attack on education, activists and the academic space at large”. Babu was arrested by the agency on July 28 in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case.

Babu teaches in the Delhi University’s English department and is well-known as an anti-caste activist. He is a member of the committee formed to defend GN Saibaba, a former Delhi University professor who is currently serving a life term in Nagpur for his links to the Communist Party of India (Maoist).

His students condemned the arrest and said the nature of Babu’s alleged “crime” remains unclear because the NIA warrant against him was “deliberately vague with clearly fabricated accusations”.

“Professor Babu has maintained his innocence since the illegal raid at his Noida apartment last year in September by Pune police,” statement said. “The raid, which was conducted without a warrant, resulted in the Pune Police confiscating Babu’s laptop, mobile phones, two booklets printed for the GN Saibaba defence committee and two books which are publicly available in bookstores and libraries.”

Babu’s home was searched by the Maharashtra police in September 2019 as part of the investigation into violence that broke out in Bhima Koregaon village near Pune on January 1, 2018, a day after an anti-caste event called the Elgar Parishad was held.

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The statement pointed out that while reports suggest the evidence that has apparently led to Babu’s arrest was based off a folder on his hard disk, the professor was not given a hash value for his laptop. “We believe this is a direct attack on education, activists and the academic space at large,” it added.

The students said the NIA summons asking Babu to travel from Noida to Mumbai amid a pandemic was “outrageous”. “His summon and arrest cannot be seen in isolation,” the statement added. “Activists like Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, Gulfisha Fatima and Sharjeel Usmani were also arrested during the ongoing pandemic, which mandates social distancing.”

The statement pointed to the fact that overcrowded jails have become new Covid-19 hotspots.
“Activists arrested earlier, like Sharjeel Imam, Akhil Gogoi, and Varavara Rao, and, according to recent news reports, many other prisoners, have also tested Covid positive,” it said.

“We demand Prof. Babu’s immediate release, and reaffirm our complete solidarity with our Professor, Hany Babu,” the students said. “We also demand the release of all political prisoners who were arrested in cases related to the Elgar-Parishad, as well as the anti-CAA protestors booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities and Prevention Act, which makes bail almost impossible under medical and humanitarian grounds despite the ongoing pandemic.”