‘Umar Khalid’s arrest a brazen attempt to suppress dissent’

Activists say police action not related to riots but linked to anti-CAA protests

September 15, 2020 08:52 am | Updated 08:52 am IST - NEW DELHI

In this photo dated December 19, 2019, Umar Khalid is detained by the police in New Delhi.

In this photo dated December 19, 2019, Umar Khalid is detained by the police in New Delhi.

Several activists, academics, and others on social media have come out in support of former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Umar Khalid, who has been arrested by the Special Cell of Delhi Police in connection with the riots that broke out in north-east Delhi in February this year.

Members of the civil rights society condemned Mr. Khalid’s arrest and said that the probe being carried out by the police is not about the communal violence.

“With deep anguish we have no doubt in saying that this probe is not about the violence in February, but about the peaceful and democratic protests across the country against the unconstitutional Citizenship (Amendment) Act,” read a statement signed by 36 people, including Delhi University professor Apoorvanand and JNU professor Jayati Ghosh — who have been named in a supplementary chargesheet filed by the police in relation to a riot case.

“The repeated attempts by the Delhi police to implicate him [Mr. Khalid] 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 added.

’Cong. supported UAPA’

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) social media head Ankit Lal said the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was also supported by Congress. “What is being done to @UmarKhalidJNU by BJP will happen to each of us if we don’t raise our voice to protect democracy. Never forget that the UAPA, under which Umar has been arrested, was also supported by Congress in Rajya Sabha. BJP and Congress are two sides of the same coin [sic],” he tweeted.

Former IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan tweeted: “Mr. Khalid is a brilliant, brave and a strong guy. A tall leader of India of tomorrow. His arrest by some yes-men of @delhipolice who can’t stand up to either the intellect or the spine of Umar are only doing a disservice to themselves [sic].”

Swara Bhaskar tweeted a picture of Umar with “#FreeUmarKhalid #ScrapUAPA”.

Indian Youth Congress leader Srivatsa Y.B. said the arrest was motivated. “Kapil Mishra screamed ‘Goli Maaro’ in his hate speech which had a big role to play in the riots. Forget arrest or UAPA, there was not even a FIR against him. What has Umar Khalid done? BJP govt is purposefully hounding him. Will judiciary uphold liberty [sic]?” he tweeted.

The JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) said the Delhi police have falsely implicated Mr. Khalid in the riots after 11 hours of interrogation. It added that Mr. Khalid had been questioned by the police before and had written an open letter to the Delhi Police Commissioner regarding intimidation of one of his acquaintances in the name of questioning.

‘Criminalising protest’

“The JNUSU condemns the continuing witch-hunt and targeting of activists. We reiterate that all these actions are a means to criminalise democratic protests against the CAA, the National Register of Citizens, and the National Population Register, which are divisive, discriminatory and the communal agenda of the BJP-RSS, implemented by the Union government,” read a statement by the students, adding that the Delhi Police reports to the Union Home Ministry and “not only has a tactical understanding with the real perpetrators of the riots but has ensured that activists are incarcerated and maligned to shift attention away from the real culprits”.

“Dubious statements of confession, which are inadmissible in a court of law, are leaked to the media as admissions of guilt to create a media frenzy and further perpetuate the witch-hunt against dissenting voices,” the JNUSU stated.

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