Hany Babu Musaliyarveettil Tharayil, 54, is an associate professor of Linguistics at Delhi University (DU), an anti-caste scholar, and a social activist. His work as an activist has been largely related to the pro-reservation movement in Indian universities. He is the coordinator of the Alliance of Social Justice, a member of the Joint Action Front for Democratic Education and, until his arrest, he was leading the Defence Committee for GN Saibaba, a professor convicted for alleged links with the Maoist movement. He identifies himself as an Ambedkarite and has worked for the cause of the anti-caste movement.
Life and activism
Hany grew up in the Malabar area of Kerala as a Moplah Muslim belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBC – this refers to social groups that are marginalized by systematic oppression and entitled to affirmative action from the Indian state). He studied at the Hyderabad campus of English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) where his journey as a successful Dalit-Bahujan (an umbrella term for marginalized groups in India) academic began and completed his Doctorate from CIEFL, Hyderabad in the year 1999. He belongs to the first generation of students who accessed higher education after the Mandal Commission (1990). Internationally renowned for his work on linguistics and the recipient of the Best Young Linguist award for the best paper presented by a research scholar at the All India Dravidian Linguistics Conference conducted by the Dravidian Linguistics Association, Thiruvananthapuram in 1995. He worked in several German universities from 1997 to 2001. He advocated for the active implementation of OBC reservations in Universities and exposed the huge gap that exists between the seats allotted and filled for the OBC students. He is also a strong advocate of using the English language as a mode of liberation for Bahujan students.
Circumstances of arrest
He was arrested on 05 August 2020 by the National Investigation Agency in the Bhima Koregaon case even when he was not present at the Elgar Parishad conclave. He is one of the 16 scholars, activists, and lawyers who were arrested by the NIA. He was arrested for allegedly supporting Naxal activities, propagating Maoism and being a co-conspirator in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgaar Parishad case.
Charges & Allegations
The arrest was made under various charges, including violations of Section 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot), Section 505 (intent to cause harm to the public/army) and Section 117 (abetting commission of an offence by the public or by more than ten persons) of the Indian Penal Code. He was also charged under relevant non-bailable sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and has been taken under extended judicial custody.
Hany Babu remains incarcerated in Taloja Jail where prison authorities denied him access to newspapers and books. He went on a symbolic hunger strike in solidarity with the farmers’ protest on 23 December 2020 along with Mahesh Raut, Anand Teltumbde and others accused in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgaar Parishad case.
A Bombay High Court bench of Justices Revati Mohite Dere and VG Bisht on 08 June 2022 recused itself from hearing a petition for bail, without citing any reason, filed by former Delhi University professor Hany Babu, accused in the Elgar Parishad case. His counsels Yug Chaudhry and Payoshi Roy submitted that the purported letter cited by the National Investigation Agency alleging a conspiracy to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not incriminate their client.
In February 2021, a United States-based digital forensics company, Arsenal Consulting, had stated that a hacker had used malware to infiltrate co-accused Rona Wilson’s laptop and deposited at least 10 incriminating letters on it. These included a purported letter to a Maoist militant discussing the need for guns and ammunition, and urging the banned group to assassinate Modi.