A group of activists, academics and students on Wednesday expressed solidarity with Delhi University professor Rakesh Ranjan, who was summoned for questioning by the National Investigation Agency in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case.
Ranjan, an associate professor of economics at Shri Ram College of Commerce, was interrogated by the agency on August 14, according to The Wire. Another Delhi University professor PK Vijayan, was also questioned the same day.
In a statement, the signatories called Ranjan’s interrogation in the case “needless and baseless”. They added that Ranjan has not only been an accomplished teacher of the subject of economics, but also a “staunch supporter of inclusivity”.
The signatories pointed out that Ranjan has also been fecilitated with the Distinguished Teacher Award by the President of India in 2009. “We condemn such interrogation by the national agency as an act of witch-hunt,” the statement read. “It is by now clear that this act is a part of larger scheme of the suppression of any kind of concerned and dissenting voices. We urge the national agency to immediately stop any such baseless investigation against him.”
Ranjan’s initiatives, both inside and outside the classroom, have been instrumental for the student community, the statement said.
Several academics, lawyers and activists have been questioned in the case, and the NIA has arrested 12 people so far. The latest arrest was of Delhi University associate professor Hany Babu, who was arrested on July 28. Several of Babu’s students and civil rights groups have criticised his arrest, calling it an attempt to criminalise and silence intellectuals in India.
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.
Violence broke out between Dalits and Marathas in the village of Bhima Koregaon near Pune on January 1, 2018. This came a day after an event in Pune called the Elgar Parishad was organised to commemorate the Battle of Bhima Koregaon in 1818 in which the Dalit Mahar soldiers fighting for the British Army defeated the Brahmin Peshwa rulers of the Maratha empire. One person died in violence during a bandh called by Dalit outfits on January 2.
The investigating agency named 11 of the 23 accused in the FIR, including activists Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha. Except Teltumbde and Navlakha, the others were arrested by Pune Police in June and August 2018 in connection with the violence. They were accused of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), and are still in prison.