Published: 11th October 2019
What ties does a 'serious academic' from Osmania University have to Maoists?
Jagan has been a contract Assistant Professor at the University PG College for seven years now, previous to that he was completing his PhD from Osmania University
On Thursday, the Telangana police arrested K Jagan, a professor at University PG College, Secunderabad, a constituent college of Osmania University for allegedly having links with Maoists. Jagan's arrest was one among a series of arrests made by the Telangana police this month, however, his friends and colleagues claim the accusations are completely false.
Jagan has been a contract Assistant Professor at the College for seven years now. Prior to that he was completing his PhD from Osmania University. Besides teaching at the Department of Economics in the college, Jagan was also a member of the Viplana Rachayitala Sangahm (Virasam) or the Revolutionary Writers' Association and he was also the editor of a student magazine called Students' March.
His friends say that besides this, he was not involved in any other activities that the police are alleging. "He got to where he is now with a lot of difficulties. Why would he risk it all by having links with banned organisations? It makes no sense at all to accuse him of these things," said Prof Laxman Gaddam, who recently retired from Osmania University where he taught for more than 30 years. Gaddam is also the President of the Civil Liberties Committee, Telangana.
Gaddam has known Jagan ever since he joined Osmania for his Masters in Economics, "Almost 15-20 years I've known Jagan as a student and as a teacher. He comes from an SC community and worked very hard to complete his PhD. His brother is also pursuing his PhD in English from Osmania currently. It is extremely rare that two brothers who came from such challenging backgrounds could reach this stage, so why would they (Jagan) do anything to risk their achievements?" the professor asks. Gaddam calls Jagan an extremely polite and sincere person who had everything going for him till yesterday.
Shocking arrest: Jagan was taken into custody while he was on his way to Osmania University library
Anatomy of a shocking arrest
After spending a few days at his in-laws' house because of the Dussehra holidays, Jagan and his wife returned to their home. On Thursday morning, he went to drop his wife at the college she teaches it, they had decided that Jagan would be back at 4 pm to pick her up. That's the last thing he told her before he completely disappeared. "He didn't turn up at 4 pm to pick her up and his phone was switched off too. They either picked him at the college or when he was on his way back," Gaddam said.
Later on in the evening, Jagan's brother got a call from him asking him to bring his laptop to a designated location. "His brother did not find anything unusual about the call and so turned up at the location with the laptop. There, the police appeared in plainclothes and confiscated the laptop. They did not give any other information to his brother," Gaddam said. Later that evening, the police raided Jagan's house seizing his pen drives, books and other belongings. "The police also asked Jagan's neighbour to sign on blank sheets of paper. But they refused because they said they were government employees and knew not to sign on plain paper," he added.
It was only after this that Jagan was produced before the magistrate and he was charged under the UAPA and 120-A (conspiracy) of IPC.
Is it a crime to speak up?
In a statement to the media, Jagan's wife said that the arrest could be linked to Jagan and his colleagues protesting against uranium mining in the Nallamalla forest. The Facebook page of Students' March and friends of Jagan have also been having a dialogue on the issue and protesting against it.
In solidarity: Various organisations held a meeting today about Jagan's arrest and have vowed their full support
"There is no proof to show that Jagan had any ties to the Maoists in any way at all. Jagan is a serious academic, he was highly praised by faculty members at Osmania and his PhD thesis was also very well received. He has devoted his time to fight for the rights of Dalits and has contributed to the fight for equal rights. That cannot be the basis for his arrest," Gaddam said.
Latest in a series of intimidatory arrests
Gaddam tells us that on October 4, Naganna, a student and member of the Telangana Vidyarati Vedika was arrested by the police. He was allegedly arrested at the railway station and was in illegal custody for over 40 hours. In the FIR that was issued against him, Jagan's name was also mentioned as the fourth accused. "His name was only on the FIR because the police found a copy of the Students' March in Naganna's house. There is no other reason for Jagan's arrest, how can he be blamed if Naganna's has bought a copy of the magazine? The case against Naganna is also false but with Jagan, the arrest has absolutely no basis," Bhasker Y, a colleague of Jagan's who is also on the editorial board of Students' March said. Bhasker has worked with Jagan for four years, "I've worked with him closely for four years and know him very well. Gadwal, where Naganna was arrested is far away from Hyderabad and I don't think the two ever even met."
The magazine covers issues that affect students including social issues such an environment, which the government is not always pleased about. "But we have never run into any problem with the government. We have not been accused of writing anything problematic," he added.
"The magazine covers issues such as Gauri Lankesh's murder, honour killings, environmental issues and any other issues concerning students. The magazine runs smoothly without any advertisements from the state government," Ara Vind, a sub-editor at the magazine said. The edition that was available at Naganna's house was a special on the Uranium mining in Nallamalla forest. Many organisations including the magazine have been running a campaign to prevent mining from taking place in the forest. Unable to come to terms with our rising popularity, the UAPA Act has been slapped on Jagan. Our freedom of speech is getting seriously affected in our country," he added.
On October 6, the police arrested another activist named Balaram and then on October 8, the police raided the house of Telangana Vidyarthi Vedika (TVV) president Maddileti, "They barged into his home, terrorised his wife and young child and intimidated them. They carried on the raid for over four hours and since it was a holiday for all media houses, they could not be informed of what was happening," Gaddam said.
Freedom of Speech: His colleagues and friends believe the arrest was a result of Jagan's campaign to stop uranium mining in Nallamalla forest
Activists from various mass organisations including members of the Civil Liberties Committee approached the Home Minister to intervene and ensure no more arrests take place and that Maddileti's wife's certificates are returned. They were promised the same, "Within the next 24 hours on October 10 they arrested Jagan, even though we were promised that no other arrests would take place," Gaddam told Edex.
Where is the crime? Or the Maoists?
Gaddam accuses the Telangana government of using draconian laws to arrest innocent people who are merely speaking up for the rights of people. "If this continues then students, young people will lose their livelihood. And how are the arrests taking place? Why are the law and required procedures not being followed? Why are rights organisations being targetted this way? Is freedom of expression completely void?" he asks. Gaddam says three other people are also being chased down too — one of whom is an 18-year-old student — and the other two were at the forefront of the Telangana movement.
Various organisations held a meeting on Friday to determine what their steps should be. "For now we've decided to apply for bail for Jagan and to spread awareness among the people about what is happening. We have to get the word out and protect our freedom to function, express, fight and defend the rights of the people. If they compromise on democracy, it will lead to unnecessary violence and we have to stop that from happening at all costs," Gaddam opined.
"As a researcher from EFLU I knew Jagan as a PhD student who was very passionate about academic research investigating people's issues and problems. His PhD was on studying the reasons behind peasant suicides in his native district, Warangal. He was instrumental in Telanagana, Dalit and other Democratic movements. As a first-generation learner, he wanted to use his education and spread awareness among people," a colleague from his College said. "He motivated several scholarship n university teachers to go to study marginalised peoples issue. I have been a regular contributer to his magazine. He recently edited a special issue on Uranium mining in Nallamala region which is majorly inhabited by tribals chenchus. Not just in this occasion he earlier organised seminars and brought out special issues on people's problems and social issues like democracy and social justice in Telangana," the colleague added.
Since he is not a member of the Osmania University Teachers' Association, they have not issued a statement yet on Jagan's arrest. However, people have taken to social media to condemn the arrest and demand his release.