The Pune Police on Tuesday searched the residence of Delhi University professor Hany Babu in Noida in connection with its probe into the Elgaar Parishad case for alleged Maoist links, officials said. Pune Assistant Commissioner of Police Shivaji Pawar said no arrest was made during the search operation at 45-year-old Babu's house in Sector 78 of Noida, adjoining the national capital, early in the morning.
"We have conducted a search operation at Babu's residence in Noida in connection with the Elgaar Parishad case registered at the Vishrambaug police station in Pune," he said, adding that police have recovered some electronic devices.
The search was conducted at his residence in connection with offences registered at Pune's Vishrambaug police station under Indian Penal Code sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 121 and 121A (waging or attempting to wage war against government), 124A (sedition), among others. Babu, who teaches English in DU, was not named in the FIR, according to police.
Babu alleged that police did not have a search warrant and they seized the phones of his daughter and wife, barring them from communicating with friends. "The officers entered my residence and looked through every room of my apartment. The search went on for six hours, at the end of which they said they will be seizing my laptop, my hard disks, my pen drives and books. They made me change the passwords of my social media accounts and my email accounts," he said.
His wife, Jenny Rowena, who teaches English at Miranda House, said they are scared after the raid, but DU teachers and students have expressed solidarity with them. "We were sleeping when they came. We didn't know why they were doing it. They told us that the case does not need a search warrant. They just told us some case number and then said it is connected to Rona Wilson case," she told PTI over phone.
"We have books in three rooms and they video recorded the books. After six hours, they said, that you are suspects now in the Bhima Koregaon case," she said.
The Noida Police said that only a search and seizure operation was conducted at his residence. "Video recording of whole proceedings was done, reasons for search were explained to him in English, a copy of seizure panchnama was given with his due acknowledgement," Noida Senior Superintendent of Police Vaibhav Krishna said.
The SSP said the Pune Police team comprised a senior crime branch officer and cyber experts besides Pawar, the investigation officer in the case, while the Noida Police provided logistical support. The Delhi University Teachers' Association condemned the raid on Babu's house.
"Such raids without search warrants are against the very essence of democracy, individual freedom, and open the door for planting evidence. Arbitrary use of instruments of the state to harass and intimidate dissent is inexcusable," the DUTA said in a statement.
Bengaluru-headquartered human rights body People's Union for Civil Liberties also condemned the "McCarthy-style witch-hunt" and "victimization" of Babu.
"The unending trial of democracy and unremitting assault on the Constitution and rule of law, in the name of Bhima-Koregaon, and the McCarthy-style Witch-hunt and victimisation of constitutionally minded academics and citizens questioning anti-democratic actions of the government in the Bhima Koregaon case continues unabated," PUCL said in a statement.
Students of DU English Department have called for a protest-march on Wednesday against the raid in North Campus. In a statement, they called the raid "illegal" and one "which amounts to harassment".
The Elgaar conclave was held at historic Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, ahead of the 200th anniversary of the battle of Koregaon Bhima. According to police, speeches made at the conclave aggravated the caste violence around Koregaon Bhima village in the district on January 1, 2018, in which one person was killed and several others were injured. Police have so far arrested nine people in the case.