Noted academic and prominent civil society member, professor Ram Punyani has received threats and verbal abuse from unidentified goons on June 6. The former IIT Bombay professor, who is also a well-known rationalist, received the threats by phone at night. Punyani has now registered an FIR with the Mumbai Police. Given his persistent and relentless campaign for rationalist thought, a syncretic understanding of history --with lectures and workshops held allover India--these threats can only be seen as serious.
The first call was made to his landline at about 8:30 PM and received by Punyani's brother-in-law. The caller was abusive and aggressive and kept alleging that Punyani was anti-Hindu. The caller threatened that Punyani must stop his activities or face the consequences. The caller said Punyani must leave in 15 days. Five minutes later, there was another call which Punyani received himself. Once again, using a very aggressive and threatening tone, the caller demanded to know if he was speaking to Punyani himself. The professor decline and the caller hung up, but this time his number could be identified. Professor Punyani's FIR may be viewed here:
Speaking to Sabrang India, professor Punyani said, "This is extremely concerning and disturbing. My family is worried about my safety. I hope the authorities take this seriously. This is not the first time that I have faced such intimidation."
The threatening calls are especially curious in light of a visit by ‘plain clothes‘ police men to the professor’s home in March 2019 on the pretext of some enquirers related to his passport. Such enquiries are usually conducted by uniformed personnel. Professor Punyani managed to get CCTV footage of these plainclothes men.
In light of crackdowns against activists and civil society members by a proto-fascist regime, this incident highlights how truly serious the state’s vendetta has become. Also given how rationalists like Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar, Gauri Lankesh and MM Kalburgi have been gunned down in cold blood by right wing supremacists, the threat to professor Punyani’s life is grave.
Activists and writers in Mumbai and India have condemned the threats. Former senior police officer and supercop Julio Riberiro has also reportedly taken up the incident very seriously.