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'To label me anti-Hindu is a carefully constructed prism'

Updated on: 11 June,2019 07:37 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Hemal Ashar |

Former IIT professor Dr Ram Puniyani on living and working through intimidation

'To label me anti-Hindu is a carefully constructed prism'

Ram Puniyani at his home in Powai. Pic/Sameer Markande

There is, like they say, always a first time for everything, "yet this first is making me uncomfortable," said Dr Ram Puniyani from his Powai residence. Puniyani has a cop posted for security for 24 hours after he complained of receiving threatening phone calls on June 6. In an interview, Dr Puniyani speaks about the common perception of him being anti-Hindu.


What kind of threat have you received?

Three days ago someone called on my landline, and spoke in Hindi. I was told to stop my anti-Hindu activity, tum chale jao (you go away). The tone was intimidating, the kind that sets a chill in the heart. This followed a March incident when three men entered my flat claiming to be from the CID. They said they were there for police verification for passports. They did show some identity card. My wife pointed out that passport verification is usually done by policemen in uniform. They seemed unsettled by this observation but persisted, in asking me some questions about my association with IIT. I was a professor in Bio-Medical Engineering. They then asked what my wife does, what my children do? They used an even tone. After some time they said bye-bye and left. I submitted the surveillance clips to the Powai police station but there was a problem of clarity. I was told that they had given it for investigation to the Anti-Terrorism Squad. I was never told who they were. I have been afraid ever since.

Has the police given you security?
A police personnel accompanies me everywhere. It is the first time in two-and-a-half decades since I started lecturing. He recently even accompanied me to the market.

Any immediate trigger for this phone call? What is your current work schedule...
I have been travelling extensively for work. I cannot think of anything immediate that could have triggered this phone call. I have given lectures in Patna, Indore (Bhopal) Hyderabad, of late.

What was the subject of these talks?
These are lectures about communal harmony. On June 15, I will travel to Kolkata, on the occasion of the anniversary of a magazine, where I will lecture on the changing political profile of the country.

Your writing has rankled some...
My entire work is in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi. My focus is unity, especially Hindu-Muslim unity. I am a rationalist and concentrate on facts only. I say look at Akbar, Aurangzeb as kings rather than Muslims.

Your critics say you make Aurangzeb look like a candidate for a Nobel peace prize...
Aurganzeb destroyed a temple. He also destroyed a mosque. Many of his officers were Hindu. I do not favour any side, or see it as a
Hindu-Muslim issue.

You are seen as left wing, the world though is tilting right...
This is right. Communalism is being made respectable. Globally, there has been a right wing shift.

You never talk for the Hindus is the common belief. Does it have any basis?
I do not talk about issues like the temple. I do not talk about cow protectionism. I think it is more important to talk about jobs, agriculture, the economy.

You are being looked through the prism of being anti-Hindu. How will this change?
That is a difficult question. It may not change because the prism itself has been carefully constructed pushed by a political agenda. Mahatma Gandhi was also seen as a Muslim appeaser. We need voices of reason and a scientific temper.

The BJP won by a thumping majority. Those you thought were against the present dispensation were not telling you the truth about who they support...
You have a valid point. The win happened due to three factors. Pulwama/Balakot, ability to manipulate and there is also the fact that Electoral Voting Machines can be tampered with.

When the Congress won in the Assembly elections of 2018, why were there no questions about the EVMs being tampered?
(Silent for a while) Maybe, the BJP propaganda machine was better and the Opposition was not united. I will continue my work.

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