India

Knock, knock, cops come calling on Prof Ram Puniyani   

A brazen attempt to intimidate Prof Ram Puniyani at his home in Mumbai was made by men in plainclothes, claiming to be from CID who asked him about the whereabouts of his children

Nachiketa Desai

Three policemen in plainclothes claiming to be from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) visited eminent academic and social activist Prof Ram Puniyani at his home in Mumbai and quizzed him about his activities and personal details, a day before the dates of the general elections to the Lok Sabha were announced.

“Why did you give up your academic career with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)? Where are your children and what are they doing?” they asked Prof Puniyani.

“They said they had come to make routine inquiry regarding his passport application,” Prof Puniyani told National Herald. When told that neither Prof Puniyani nor his wife had applied for passport, the visitors revealed they were from the CID.

Asked if they carried any identity card, one of them quickly flashed one from his pocket only to put it back before Prof Puniyani could have a close look at it. “It was my mistake that I did not insist on scrutinizing the ID card,” Prof Puniyani said.

Prof Ram Puniyani, who was a professor of biomedical engineering at the IIT - Mumbai, had taken voluntary retirement in December 2004 to work full-time for communal harmony in India.

Author of many books on communal harmony and secularism, he writes regularly in different publications, including National Herald, to strengthen voices of sanity and has consistently questioned and challenged divisive forces. He has received the prestigious Indira Gandhi Award (2006) and National Communal Harmony Award (2007) apart from many other awards for his work.

“We fear that the policemen visited and questioned Prof Puniyani and his wife was to intimidate him and silence his voice which has always remained critical of communal forces and has fought for peace and harmony,” said a human rights activist who is mobilizing a signature campaign against the police action.

“We feel that this can be a precursor to involve him in some legal hassles, or implicate him in some case so that he is silenced,” the activist said.

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