The Delhi Police on Wednesday booked six students for protesting against the arrest of Delhi University professor MT Hany Babu and defying prohibitory orders, PTI reported. Babu was arrested by the National Investigation Agency on July 28 in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. Babu is an associate professor of English at Delhi University and a well-known anti-caste activist.

The police said about 10-12 students had assembled near the university’s arts department. “They were apprised that in the view of Covid-19 pandemic and its guidelines, gathering is not allowed and prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC has been issued,” a police officer said.

“The students kept on protesting despite several requests and have been apprehended for violation of [an] order under section 144 CrPC,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (North) Monika Bhardwaj said, according to the Hindustan Times. “A case under section 188 of [the] Indian Penal Code, 3 Epidemic Disease Act and 51/57 DM Act is being registered against them.”

The police identified the six students as Abhigyan, Salman, Navdeep Kaur, Sangita, Rajbir Kaur and Sushil. While Abhigyan belongs to the All India Students’ Association, others are members of different organisations, including the Bhagat Singh Ekta Manch.

“From charging students under fabricated cases to even booking them under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the government has left no stone unturned to turn this pandemic to bring an onslaught on all dissenting voices,” the All India Students’ Association said in a statement. “AISA resolves to fight against these injustices and continue to raise its voice by all democratic means against this silencing of dissent.”

The Students’ Federation of India, whose members were also present during the protest, said the government was trying to stop students “from exercising their democratic right to protest.”

On August 7, a special court in Mumbai had sent the professor to judicial custody till August 21 after the NIA said it did not want to keep Babu in custody any longer.

Babu 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 allegations of links to the Communist Party of India (Maoist).

In 2019, his home was searched by the Maharashtra Police as part of their 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. The police had seized several electronic devices and books from Babu’s home.

Several of Babu’s students and civil rights groups have criticised his arrest, calling it an attempt to criminalise and silence intellectuals in India. On July 31, a group of over 300 students of the Delhi University professor released a statement in solidarity with the activist and said the NIA’s warrant against him was a “direct attack on education, activists and the academic space at large”.

Apart from Babu, activists Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha have been arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case.