The case relates to the 1 January 2018 violence that left one person dead and several injured, after clashes at the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Koregaon.
Babu was the 12th person arrested in the case, with the others being prominent activists and lawyers. All 12 have been accused of being present at an event called the Elgar Parishad, organised by Dalit-Ambedkarite groups the day before the bicentenary, which had “instigated” violence with its speeches, according to investigators.
Apart from Hany Babu, the 11 others have been charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and are accused of being members of banned outfit CPI (Maoist). They were allegedly working to destabilise the country, including a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Babu is the fourth academic arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case — all four have been trenchant critics of the Modi government.
Soon after his arrest, another Modi critic in the academic community, DU’s Prof. Apoorvanand, was questioned for over three hours by the Delhi Police in connection with the February 2020 Delhi riots, and alleged that his phone had been seized. Several research scholars from Jamia Millia Islamia and Jawaharlal Nehru University, too, have been arrested and questioned in connection with the riots.
ThePrint turns the spotlight to the four academics arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case.
Bharadwaj is a prominent human rights lawyer and visiting faculty at the National Law University, Delhi. She is known for her work in Chhattisgarh, fighting for the land rights of adivasis.
She is currently lodged in Mumbai’s Byculla Jail, on charges of sedition, promoting enmity between different religious groups, waging war against the country, and inciting riots. Her bail plea, filed on 10 June on health grounds, is pending in the Bombay High Court.
Before her arrest in 2018, Bharadwaj was working with the villagers of Ghatbarra over violation of community rights on land sanctioned by the government to the Adani Group for mining operations without the villagers’ consent. She had said in a 2013 interview that the focus of her work was cases where the government gave corporates mining leases without taking adivasis’ consent.
Teltumbde is a professor at the Goa Institute of Management, and has written over two dozen books on the caste system, which he has been a vocal critic of. He has also been openly critical of the Modi government — at a literature festival in 2017, Teltumbde had described the Modi government as fascist.
“The BJP government may soon prove to be more dangerous for India than the Nazi Party under Hitler was for Germany,” he had said.
One of the letters “recovered” by investigators from one of the 12 accused detailed a plot to assassinate PM Modi. The letter mentioned ‘Comrade Anand’, on the basis of which Teltumbde has been charged.
The NIA has also accused him of being the convener of the Elgar Parishad, which it claimed led to the Bhima Koregaon violence.
Teltumbde is lodged in Mumbai’s Taloja jail, and the NIA court rejected bail plea on 24 July.
Shoma Sen is a human rights activist and professor at Nagpur University. Her work includes publications in the Economic and Political Weekly.
Sen has worked closely on Dalit women’s rights; her organisation undertook fact-finding missions on women’s rights under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Manipur and Chhattisgarh’s Bastar.
Like Bharadwaj and Teltumbde, Sen has also been charged under UAPA. A special NIA court on 4 July rejected her bail plea on medical grounds, saying “some diseases” cannot be grounds for bail. She too is lodged in Byculla jail in Mumbai.
Hany Babu is an associate professor in the Department of English, Delhi University. He was arrested on 28 July in Mumbai, where he had been called to depose in the case of G.N. Saibaba, another arrested DU academic.
Babu is well-known for taking up the matter of denial seats to OBCs in DU through RTIs and social mobilisation. He was also a member of the defence committee, which was working to secure Saibaba’s release in DU.
Babu’s house was raided in September 2019, and again on 2 August, less than a week after his arrest.