August 30, 2020
Shri Ram Nath Kovind
c/o Shri Kumar Samresh
Public Relations Officer, Museum
New Delhi 110004 India
Phone: 91 11 2301 5321
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
We are writing to express our serious concern for Hany Babu, Anand Teltumbde, and Sajid Bin Sayed, three men who have been detained and face prosecution for nothing more than exercising their human right to free expression and association. The judicial harassment of these men represents a serious threat to academic freedom in India. These actions place India’s reputation as a global scientific leader in serious jeopardy.
Hany Babu is an Associate English Professor at Delhi University, and like many others who have been arrested and harassed in India, he has spoken out in support of the Dalit community. His arrest on July 28 by the National Investigating Agency (NIA) is believed to be connected to his participation in the Dalit organized Elgar Parishad convention held in Pune in December 2017 – which authorities blame for subsequent violence at Bhima Koregaon on January 2, 2018 – and for his membership in the Committee for the Defence and Release of G.N. Saibaba.
Dr. Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba is a disabled Associate Professor at Delhi University serving a life sentence for his academic and human rights work on behalf of vulnerable populations caught up in the conflict between the CPI and your government. At
Dr. Saibaba’s trial, he was convicted on spurious charges of “being a member of a terrorist gang or organization” for which there was no credible evidence.
Hany Babu has similarly been accused, based on alleged associations, of promoting “Naxal activities and Maoist ideology”.
Dr. Anand Teltumbde is an accomplished Dalit scholar with degrees in engineering, management, and cybernetics, a former Professor at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, and most recently a Senior Professor at the Goa Institute of Management. He is also an outspoken advocate for the Dalit community. He was arrested by NIA in April and now faces similar accusations to those that Hany Babu faces. He is 70 years old and reportedly held in Taloja jail, where the COVID-19 pandemic has been proliferating. Another man facing similar charges, Telugu poet P. Vara Vara Rao, tested positive for the disease, and Dr. Teltumbde, despite an apparent negative test, is at serious risk of contracting the virus.
In July, Dr. Teltumbde, along with journalist Gautam Navlakha, yet another man facing similar charges, was awarded the 2020 Shakti Bhatt Book Prize.
The prosecutions of Hany Babu, Dr. Anand Teltumbde, and others, appear to be an attempt to silence those expressing sympathy or support for the Dalit community and those opposing discrimination based on caste.
Sajid Bin Sayed is a Research Scholar and Ph.D. student at Jawaharlal Nehru University. He, too, was arrested for exercising his right to free expression, after complaints about a tweet he posted that was critical of the Indian Army and the RSS, and their activities in Kashmir. He has been charged with “provocation with intent to cause a riot” and “intentionally insulting with intent to provoke breach of the peace”, but, like the judicial harassment of Hany Babu, Dr. Anand Teltumbde, and others, these charges are an attempt to criminalize free expression and association, and they constitute a flagrant abuse of basic human rights.
Articles 19 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) protect the rights to free expression and free association, and, as a State Party to this human rights treaty, your government has agreed to protect these rights, not undermine or suppress them. India is also a State Party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which requires your government to actively work to reduce discriminatory policies and practices. Yet your government is displaying contempt for these international obligations as it engages in specious prosecutions to suppress free expression and academic freedom, especially for those who are vocal in their opposition to discrimination.
We urge you to reverse course. If Hany Babu, Dr. Anand Teltumbde, and Sajid Bin Sayed are not to be charged with legitimate, recognizable criminal offenses, we urge you to see to it that they are released immediately and unconditionally, and allowed to resume their academic and human rights work against discrimination. And, going forward, we urge you to refrain from such unjust detentions and prosecutions, particularly given the prevalence of COVID-19 in jails and prisons.
We thank you for your attention to this important matter, and look forward to receiving your response.
Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich, Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
H.E. Taranjit Singh Sandhu
Embassy of India
2107 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: 202-939-7000/Fax: 202-265-4351
US Ambassador to India
U.S. Embassy – New Delhi
New Delhi 110021
Phone: 011 91 11 2419 0017