‘Flimsy cover for cracking down on dissident intellectuals’: Scientists, academics raise concerns over NIA probe

Over 1,000 scientists and academics from India and abroad have endorsed a statement raising concerns over the actions of National Investigation Agency (NIA) in its investigation of the Bhima Koregaon violence.

Researchers from affiliated institutions such as Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Azim Premji University, IIT Delhi, IIT Kanpur, IIT Madras, Shiv Nadar University, Mumbai University, Calcutta University, among others, have alleged that instead of investigating those responsible for the violent clashes in Koregaon Bhima, the NIA (and earlier, the Pune Police) has focused on the Elgaar Parishad event, a large cultural and political gathering reportedly organised by two well-known retired judges.

“Surprisingly, in this process, the investigating agencies have arrested several illustrious citizens — including academics, lawyers and prominent activists. Most of the individuals taken into custody were not even present at the Elgaar Parishad event. Therefore, it is (very) unlikely that the government will secure a conviction in this case. However, by using the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the government has prevented those who have been arrested from obtaining bail,” read the statement.

“It appears to us that the NIA’s claims of investigating the “conspiracy” in the Elgaar Parishad case are actually a flimsy cover for cracking down on “urban Naxals” — who, in reality, are only dissident intellectuals — and keeping them in prison indefinitely,” it added.

After arresting Delhi Univeristy professor Hany Babu a few weeks ago, the NIA has continued to interrogate academics and activists, and even defence lawyers for some of the accused. Most recently, the NIA summoned the well-known scientist and activist, Professor Partho Sarothi Ray, of Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, to Mumbai on September 10 for questioning in the case, the statement read.

Besides his outstanding scientific work, Ray has also been deeply involved in social causes. “He has worked extremely hard in coordinating efforts in the Nadia district to battle the Covid-19 pandemic, by helping to set up and operate the government-run Covid testing centre in the district,” the statement pointed.

The letter has demanded that the government should immediately end its crackdown on dissidents and release those arrested in the Elgaar Parishad case. It should focus on identifying and prosecuting perpetrators of the violence in Koregaon Bhima instead, it added.

Source: The Indian Express


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