A group of academics, activists and organisations on Sunday issued a statement demanding the immediate withdrawal of the National Investigation Agency’s “menacing and threatening” notice to professor Partho Sarothi Ray, in connection with the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad cases, Groundxero reported. They said the summon was yet another “sinister attempt in the fascist regime’s witch-hunt” at silencing voices the of dissent.
Ray, an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, has been asked to present himself before the investigators in Mumbai on September 10 at 11 am. He has denied having any connection with the case and accused the investigative agency of trying to “harass him, as has been the case with other intellectuals”.
The statement said that Ray, who is the member of Persecuted Prisoners’ Solidarity Committee and the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, has been proactively involved with peaceful movements, especially the struggles for the rights of poor and marginalised Dalits and adivasis. “Partho has been ever-present in marches, rallies, and other street programmes with his stirring but lucid speeches and an endearing smile,” the citizens said.
They further pointed out that Ray was among the scientists consulted by the World Health Organization to understand the character of the coronavirus and formulate a policy to tackle the pandemic. “At IISER [Indian Institute of Science Education and Research], Partho has been carrying out extensive and useful research on molecular biology,” the statement added. “His pioneering work on viruses has taken him to the lecture-halls in universities and scientific gatherings across the globe.”
The statement said the NIA notice to Ray was a “brazen assault” by the state on democratic activities. “The harassment of Dr Ray by the NIA is yet another sinister attempt in the fascist regime’s witch-hunt at silencing the voices of dissent and protest,” it added. “We, the undersigned, strongly condemn this brazen assault on democratic activities and demand immediate withdrawal of NIA’s menacing, threatening interrogation notice. We stand hand-in-hand with Dr Partho Sarothi Ray.”
The signatories included Abhijit Roy, professor at Jadavpur University, All India Central Council of Trade Union, All India Kshet Mazdoor Kisan Sabha, Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle of IIT Madras, filmmaker Aniket Chattopadhyay, and Achin Chakraborty, professor at Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata, among others.
On Monday, Dalit scholar and activist K Satyanarayana said he too has received an interrogation notice from the NIA in connection with the case. He has been asked to present himself before the investigators in Mumbai on September 9. Satyanarayana’s brother and senior journalist KV Kumarnath was also summoned to appear on the same day.
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 held on July 28.
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, 2018.
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.