Mumbai: Days after the Pune police raided the house of 51-year-old professor K. Satyanarayana at the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) campus in Hyderabad, he has decided to move the Supreme Court against the “injustice and humiliation” he had to endure. On August 28, a Pune police team reached Satyanarayana’s house at 8:30 am and even before he and his wife K. Pavana could realise what was happening, the police had launched a “search” of their house. Their personal properties were ransacked, computers were seized and even their seven-year-old daughter’s toys were allegedly damaged in the drama that went on for nearly nine hours. Satyanarayana told The Wire that he is determined to fight the police, which resorted to “unconstitutional and illegal means to humiliate and threaten” him.
On August 28, while a search team was at Satyanarayana’s residence, another team of the Pune police was raiding Pavana’s father Varavara Rao’s house nearby at 6 am. Rao, a 78-year-old poet and activist, was later arrested and taken to Pune for his alleged Maoist links and involvement in the violence that broke out at Bhima Koregaon near Pune on January 1.
When the Pune police reached EFLU, Satyanarayana says, he was shown some documents that were typed in Marathi. “They said they had a permission from a Pune court to carry out a search at my residence. I did not know what was this all about. Only much later, when one of my Marathi-speaking colleagues reached, we realised this search had nothing to do with me or my wife. The document claimed my father-in-law lived with us,” Satyanarayana said. Also, those documents were signed not by a Pune court but by Shivaji Pawar, ACP of Pune police’s Swargate division. A copy of the search warrant has been accessed by The Wire.
The police, Satyanarayana says, had come along with “two witnesses” from Pune. “They got their own men and made them sign as witnesses. When I protested and asked them to add at least one independent person as a witness in the panchnama, they refused.”
The professor says, “What the police did was completely unconstitutional and deceitful. The search warrant was not issued against me or my wife and it only stated that Varavara Rao lived at my residence. Another team of the police had already been to his house at 6 am, so they knew he was not at our residence. They did this only to harass us.” Satyanarayana, along with his family, is now in the process of drafting a petition and plans to file it before the Supreme Court.
Satyanarayana says he was targeted only because he is married to Rao’s daughter and because he belongs to the Dalit community. “They could touch a university professor within the university campus so casually only because of my caste. They mentioned my caste and my wife’s caste several times during the search. They kept asking her (Pavana) why she did not wear any traditional ornaments that a Hindu married woman would usually wear. They told her, ‘Your husband is Dalit but you are a Brahmin, why don’t you follow any traditions’. They said obnoxious stuff.” The police even asked why he read Ambedkar and Phule, Satyanarayana says. “They questioned me over every book with a red cover or Marx written over it. They asked me why I have so many books at home. How should I even respond to such a question?” he says.
He says just like the police, the media too flashed the news that “Varavara Rao’s son-in-law’s house has been raided”. He said the media had no consideration for the years of work which he has carried out so painstakingly. “They reduced me to a nobody. They made it appear as if I was born only after I married Rao’s daughter and had no other significance or contribution to academics,” he says. This behaviour, he says, “Is all rooted in the caste system.” “They (the media and the police) could rob me of my agency only because I am Dalit. I never felt so vulnerable.” Satyanarayana, who is known for his extensive and focused academic work on Dalit writings in India, told The Wire that the computers that the police seized from his place consisted of manuscripts of his books and several important feminist writings by Pavana. “My academic work is all I possess. They robbed me of it in a matter of a day,” he said.
Satyanarayana says he was active in student politics while studying at the Hyderabad Central University. But over the past decade, he says, he intentionally stayed away from politics and focused only on academics. “I worked as a convenor of the Progressive Students’ Forum at HCU in the 1990s. Until 2006, I actively worked with the ‘Kula Nirmoolana Porata Samiti’ which literally means a Forum for Caste Annihilation in Telugu. But due to some differences in the way the Forum functioned, I stepped out and since then I have only focused on my academic writings,” he says.
Satyanarayana says as soon as his house was raided, his students and colleagues promptly gathered outside his residence and demanded the police leave immediately. Satyanarayana says, “It was heartening to see all my colleagues and students stand by me. They raised slogans and tried to disrupt the search. They were there to ensure the police did not have its way.” His father, the professor says, wanted him to be an IAS office. “I had rebelled against him and decided to get into academics. Looking at the love and support that I have experienced in this campus in past few days, I feel I did a right thing.”