Published: 03rd February 2020
NIA questions noted History prof from IIT-Guwahati, Arupjyoti Saikia: 42 academics write letter of protest
The NIA has not yet disclosed the reasons behind the grilling of the IIT Guwahati professor but sources said he was called as a witness in an unspecified case concerning the ongoing protests
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) summoned IIT Guwahati professor Arupjyoti Saikia for questioning in a case reportedly connected with ongoing protests on Monday, for the second time in just three days. This was after the investigative agency had already grilled the professor for almost four hours on Saturday. Meanwhile, a group of 42 eminent scholars and academics, including historian Ramachandra Guha, wrote to the NIA on Sunday expressing concern about the summoning and questioning of the professor.
The NIA has not yet disclosed the reasons behind the grilling of the 52-year-old educator but sources said he was called as a witness in an unspecified case. Saikia is a professor of History in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT Guwahati. In a statement, the group of 42 scholars, including Guha, urged the NIA to treat Saikia "with the dignity and respect he deserves, and allow him to continue his professional work unimpeded."
"We, a group of Indian scholars and academics from across the country, write in distress and with concern with regard to the ongoing ordeal of Professor Arupjyoti Saikia. Professor Saikia is one of the country's most distinguished and respected historians. The author most recently of a landmark history of the Brahmaputra River, he has also written significant works on forest and agrarian history. For his contributions to scholarship, Professor Saikia is hugely admired, indeed venerated, in his native Assam. He also has a very high reputation nationally and even internationally, with his scholarship recognised by a prestigious fellowship from Yale University," the statement reads.
Among those who signed the statement, apart from the noted historian Ramachandra Guha, are professors Partha Chatterjee, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Nandini Sundar, Nivedita Menon, AR Venkatachalapathy, and Srinath Raghavan.
The statement added, "Professor Saikia is an adornment to the literary and intellectual world of Assam and of India. He is also an individual of high moral character; gentle, soft-spoken, and utterly non-violent. His devotion to his students at IIT Guwahati is exemplary". The scholars also said that it is "deeply distressing" that an educator of such standing, and a human being of such decency, was called for intensive grilling by the NIA without proper explanation.
On December 11, 2019, after the CAA was passed in the Parliament, violent protests took place in the Northeast. Days after the protests, State Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had claimed that the government had electronic evidence that a leading academician played a major role in the protests against the controversial citizenship law. At least five people were killed during the agitation in Assam.