Delhi academics say that Hany Babu, recently arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for Maoist links in the Elgar Parishad - Bhima Koregaon case has been targeted for his work to get reservations implemented in Delhi University.
Delhi University would earlier not fulfil its OBC quota obligations. Babu, through RTI applications to each and every college under the university, got data, which he collated and exposed the anomaly. There were court petitions for SC, ST reservations he was involved in and agitations for the reservations cause too.
He met politicians so that the matter was taken up in the parliament. As a result, the university was compelled to fill seats through quota, a large number of which would earlier unofficially be filled with general quota admissions. He made sure that reservation was implemented at teaching posts too.
The linguist is the general secretary of the ‘Academic Forum for Social Justice’ and through the work of the forum, the implementation of reservation was spreading to other central universities too. The forum was also against privatisation of education. These were perceived as a threat by the government, fellow academics say.
The 54-year-old Keralite, whom many call a soft-spoken serious academic, was also involved in movements to release political prisoners like GN Saibaba, a DU professor with 90 percent disability serving a life-term in Nagpur prison for Maoist links.
“He was able to connect the macro-level and micro-level issues and do concrete work at the micro-level. That made the powers-that-be feel threatened,” says Saroj Giri, a social commentator and professor of political science at DU. Babu, says Giri, has a support base beyond the circle of the radical left and his arrest which has pained the student and teaching community, will backfire on the government.
Sachin N., Babu’s colleague at DU in the English department, a trade-unionist and Ambedkarite, says he knows Babu for the past 13 years and calls the case “trumped-up” and the act of Babu’s arrest an “undermining of democratic forces” of the country.
Calling the BJP-RSS ideology as one that rejects egalitarianism, he says Babu’s work which showed that reservations were mostly on paper, exposed the upper caste consensus on the matter in the higher echelons of education, which was a cause for the state of affairs. This contradicted the brahminical project of the RSS-BJP, he says.
An associate professor at St. Stephens College, Karen Gabriel has worked with Babu on the Committee for Defence and Release of Saibaba. She points that the profile of people that are targeted are those who have worked actively for social equality and have been vocal and written about these issues. There is an attempt to force people into self-censorship by instilling fear in their minds by such acts, Gabriel says.
“The government is trying to silence voices that are championing causes of the downtrodden sections of society,” says Vikas Gupta, an assistant professor at the DU’s history department.
Babu’s wife Jenny Rowena says, “There were days he would be so involved in work that he would not come home for days. Somebody would want him to be punished for the work he did.”
Hany Babu is Presently in NIA custody for interrogation after his arrest by the agency on July 28. The agency told the court on Wednesday while seeking his custody for 10 days that Babu has links with the banned CPI (Maoist) and has supported Naxalite movements and activities.