It was summer 1986. On April 23, Prof Nagari Babaiah, an English lecturer at the Bangalore University, had just stepped out of his home when he came to know that the police had raided a house rented through him. Babaiah rushed to his house in Richmond Town.
A sub-inspector took Babaiah to his house at the HAL. “They did not find anything, but took me with them to police station,” he trails off. Around 7 pm, police told Babaiah he was under arrest. They didn’t give the reason, and denied him any means to contact his friends.
Babaiah had no links with any extremist outfit, including Naxals. But police had, in 1984, advised him to keep off popular agitations when the Karnataka Civil Liberties Committee protested against a police firing in Bangalore that killed 25 people. The committee’s efforts had forced the government to set up an inquiry into the incident. Soon after his arrest, efforts revved up to ‘prove’ his links with the radical People’s War Group. Intelligence sleuths and special squad cops from Andhra Pradesh rushed in and started interrogating him. “I was stripped naked. They tortured me. They included one who was earlier an English lecturer from a Chittoor college.”
He says police even threatened to rape his wife and daughters them in front of him. All this when the professor wasn’t clearly told about his ‘crime’. Then he learnt he was booked under the Arms Act. “The report said I was arrested at the Sule Circle in Bangalore while carrying arms and ammunition to Chittoor,” he recalls. Even more curious, “A junior officer of the Andhra police protested against filing false charges. He was booked under sedition and abetting crime.”
Babaiah spent ten days in a small lock-up with a dozen petty thieves He was shifted to judicial custody. He was then jailed for three months. “I was quarantined and had severe health problems…the physical and mental torture,” he says. “It was hell. Homosexual advances, bad food and hardcore criminals.”
Babaih’s friends bribed officials to finally shift him to hospital. After three months, Babaih got bail from the Supreme Court. But he had to visit the courts for a decade.
Twenty-three years after his arrest and release, Babaiah feels the situation for political and human right activists has not improved. “There is still suppression of the voices,” he says.
— [email protected], 31 May 2009