NEW DELHI: Dr Prem Kumar Vijayan, associate professor of English literature at the Hindu College, and Rakesh Ranjan, professor of economics at the Shri Ram College of Commerce, both of Delhi University, were yesterday issued summonses by the National Investigation Agency in connection with the 2018 Elgar Parishad case.

Vijayan confirmed to the press that an officer handed him the summons at his residence on the evening of August 13. “I have been called tomorrow morning at the [NIA] headquarter here” in Delhi, he stated.

Professor Ranjan could not be reached for comment.

The summons come a day after the Delhi Police booked 6 students near the DU Arts Faculty building on Wednesday, during a protest against the arrest of Dr Hany Babu a fortnight ago.

Babu is also a professor of English at DU, and a civil rights activist currently in judicial custody under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, also in alleged connection with the Elgar Parishad case still under investigation by the NIA.

Both Vijayan and Babu have campaigned for the release of Dr GN Saibaba, a former professor at the Ram Lal Anand College, Delhi University, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2019 for links with Maoist groups.

Days after arresting Babu the NIA raided his house, and alleged it had found evidence of “links” with a Manipur based insurgent group.

The NIA and the Delhi Police are both governed by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.

The very evening Professors Vijayan and Ranjan were summoned, online campaigns and statements erupted across social media condemning the government move, with many students and colleagues calling the Elgar Parishad probe a “witch-hunt” and demanding the “release of all political prisoners”.

“We the students of SRCC condemn this vicious agenda of the state to target our professor,” stated The Dissenting Voices of SRCC, a student collective, which has also launched a petition on titled “This fascist state has to stop its attack on academic spaces.”

“PK Vijayan sir is the latest target in this sustained attack against teachers, thinkers and activists,” said Shayantani Das, a colleague of Vijayan’s at the Department of English.

“This is part of the fear-mongering apparatus that the government has continued to wield in the midst of a pandemic,” said Das in a public statement.

A teacher at SRCC who wished to remain anonymous told The Citizen, “Rakesh Ranjan always stood up for the marginalised and weaker sections of society. He spoke up about issues related to tribal citizens and the differently abled. He tried to protect them. It is a part and parcel of our job.”

A statement released by the Hindu College Coordination Committee reads:

“Prof Vijayan is a noted academic whose commitment to democratic rights, education for all and ensuring social justice is reflected both in his academic engagements and social activism… He has been a staunch voice against privatization of public education, attacks on constitutional social justice norms, saffronisation of curriculum by the RSS-BJP regime and criminalization of political opposition.”

Yesterday’s NIA summons to Professors Ranjan and Vijayan are in connection with an anti-caste event held at Bhima Koregaon, Pune, which witnessed violence on January 1, 2018 after a group allegedly carrying saffron flags began pelting stones, resulting in a clash the next day and one death. Next day an FIR was filed against 'Sambhaji' Bhide and Milind Ekbote for instigating the violence.

The Elgar Parishad was a meeting held the previous day, co-organised by former Supreme Court Justice PB Sawant and attended by artists, students and activists.

Investigating the Elgar Parishad, in June 2018 the Pune Police arrested 19 people including Sudhir Dhawale, a journalist, academics Rona Wilson and Mahesh Raut, lawyers Surendra Gadling, Sudha Bhardwaj and Arun Ferreira, Shoma Sen, a professor at Nagpur university, and activists Vernon Gonsalves and Varavara Rao.

They remain in prison and have not been tried. Reportedly the charges against them include involvement in a plot to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi, possession and transport of the Chinese QLZ 87 Automatic Grenade Launcher and an M-4 with 4,00,000 rounds.

In April this year the NIA arrested Dr Anand Teltumbde, a former professor at the IIT Kharagpur, also in connection with the Elgar Parishad case alleging Maoist links.

Teltumbde and at least 120 other activists across the country, most of them connected to these accused scholars and activists, were also targets of a spyware attack using an advanced Israeli software program called Pegasus in October 2019. Vijayan was targeted by malware attacks that same month, according to an investigation by US-based rights group Amnesty International.

As news of the NIA summons spread through the evening, students from SRCC spoke up about their teachers.

“Be it something concerning a student or a large collective, the first person anyone would approach on campus is PKV,” said a former student of Vijayan’s on condition of anonymity, who graduated last year.

“He has been my rock throughout my years in the University of Delhi and it pains my heart to see a man of such great knowledge and virtues being heckled like this. I hope justice is served.”

“Rakesh Sir is one of the very few teachers who make SRCC a safe space. He encourages free dialogue in classes in a way that's very rare,” said Nikita Bhatia, a third-year student at the college.

“I hope the students of SRCC open their eyes and rise up in solidarity with a professor who has made our college feel like home.”

Said Aanya, a third-year economics student at the college, “This mindless persecution based on unfounded ties is an infringement of that space, of free education and rightful dissent, and we condemn it. We stand fully in solidarity with all professors whose only aim has been to further education.”

At the time of writing, a source who wished to remain anonymous told The Citizen that PK Vijayan and Rakesh Ranjan were reportedly released from NIA at approximately 9 pm on 14 August, after more than eight hours of questioning