Citizens Condemn Umar Khalid’s Arrest, Demand Delhi Police Stop “Witch Hunt”

On Sep 13, the Delhi Police’s Special Cell arrested former Jawaharlal Nehru University student Umar Khalid in connection with the Northeast Delhi riots that took place in February, earlier this year.

A senior police official confirmed to The Hindu that Khalid was called in for questioning on Sunday, after which he was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The official also claimed that Khalid was one of the key conspirators in the violence that broke out in Northeast Delhi over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

The Indian Express reported an unidentified source stating that the police are likely to file a chargesheet against the accused in coming days. Khalid will be produced before a Delhi court on Monday.

Activists, academics and members of civil society have released a statement condemning Khalid’s arrest and demanding his immediate release. Stating that Khalid was one of hundreds of voices that spoke up in favour of the Constitution during anti-CAA demonstrations, the signatories wrote, “The repeated attempts by the Delhi police to implicate him in a number of fictitious cases of conspiracy for the Delhi violence are part of a brazen attempt to try to suppress his voice of dissent.”

The full text of the press statement has been reproduced below:

WE CONDEMN THE ARREST OF UMAR KHALID, ONE OF OUR BRAVEST YOUNG VOICES WHO SPOKE FOR THE CONSTITUTIONAL VALUES OF OUR COUNTRY WE DEMAND HIS IMMEDIATE RELEASE & ASK DELHI POLICE TO STOP THIS WITCHHUNT

As citizens deeply committed to Constitutional values, we condemn the arrest of Umar Khalid who has been subjected to a malicious investigation targeting peaceful anti-CAA protestors. He has been booked under several charges including UAPA, sedition and conspiracy for murder. With deep anguish we have no doubt in saying that this investigation is not about the violence in February 2020 in the national capital, but on the completely peaceful and democratic protests across the country against the unconstitutional CAA.

Umar Khalid was one of the hundreds of voices that spoke up in favour of the Constitution across the country during these anti-CAA protests, always foregrounding the need for peaceful, non-violent and democratic means. Umar Khalid has emerged as a strong and powerful voice of young Indians in favour of the Constitution and of democracy. The repeated attempts by the Delhi police to implicate him in a number of fictitious cases of conspiracy for the Delhi violence are part of a brazen attempt to try to suppress his voice of dissent. It is very significant that of the 20 arrested, 19 are under the age of 31. Of which 17 have been charged under the draconian UAPA and have been imprisoned on charges of a conspiracy for the Delhi violence whereas those who actually instigated and participated in the violence has not been touched. Of the ones incarcerated, five are women, except for one all are also students.

The essence of our democracy is the freedom of conscience and the strength of any country is in its young minds. We strongly condemn the targeting of Umar Khalid and other young activists, both women and men.

The right to life, is not just to be allowed to eat, live and breathe; it is to live without fear, with dignity and with freedom of expression, including dissent. The nature of investigation has been mainly to silence democratic voices and instill fear, and this is precisely the objective of this witch hunt.

Given the precedence of physical attacks in court premises in the instance of Kanhaiya Kumar, and the attempt on Umar’s life in 2018 by gunmen in public, it is imperative that all measures are taken to avoid any threat to his life and safety so long as he remains in the custody of the state / judiciary.

It has also been observed by the court that the media is peddling false information and selective leakages in an attempt to conduct a full-fledged media trial and influence the course of justice. This must cease immediately. If we let law take its own course, we are confident that justice shall prevail.

Signed,

1. Saeed Mirza, filmmaker
2. Syeda Hameed, ex-Planning Commission
3. Arundhati Roy, Writer
4. TM Krishna, Artist
5. Ramchandra Guha, Historian
6. Prashant Bhushan, Senior Advocate
7. P. Sainath, Senior Journalist
8. Brinda Karat, CPI (M)
9. Jignesh Mewani, MLA Gujarat
10. Kavita Krishnan (AIPWA)
11. Mihir Desai, Senior Advocate
12. Aakar Patel, Journalist & Activist
13. Biraj Patnaik, Public Policy expert
14. Darab Farooqi, Writer and lyricist
15. Farah Naqvi, Writer and Activist
16. Githa Hariharan, Author and Activist
17. Harsh Mander, Author & Activist
18. Jayaram Venkatesan, Social Activist, Chennai
19. Kavita Srivastava, Activist
20. Navsharan Singh, independent researcher
21. ND Pancholi, Senior Lawyer
22. Prabir Purakayastha
23. Prof. Atul Sood, JNU
24. Prof. Nandini Sundar, Delhi University
25. Prof. Apoorvanand, Delhi University
26. Prof. Jayati Ghosh, JNU
27. Prof. Mary John
28. Prof. Prabhat Patnaik
29. Prof. Satish Deshpande
30. Prof. Surajit Mazumdar, JNU
31. Prof. Ayesha Kidwai, JNU
32. Prof. D. K. Lobiyal, JNU
33. Purwa Bhardwaj, Educationist
34. Ravi Kiran Jain, PUCL
35. Shuddhabrata Sengupta (Raqs Media Collective)
36. V Suresh, PUCL

First published in The Citizens.