Scholars, writers, artists call for Umar Khalid’s release

Umar Khalid. File  

A group of eminent academics, writers, filmmakers and artists from around the world, including Noam Chomsky, Salman Rushdie and Mira Nair, on Thursday called for the release of former Jawaharlal Nehru University students’ leader and activist Umar Khalid, who has been arrested by the Delhi Police in connection with the riots that erupted in February.

“As an international community of scholars, teachers, students, artists and film-makers, we have watched with alarm the events unfolding in India. We stand in solidarity and outrage, with the brave young scholar and activist Umar Khalid, arrested in New Delhi on September 14, 2020, under fabricated charges of engineering the Delhi riots in February 2020”, a statement issued by the group said.

Mr. Khalid had been charged with sedition, conspiracy to murder, and under sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the statement noted.

“This process of criminalizing all dissent has been underway for a few years and even under a COVID-19 pandemic, relentless political arrests under fabricated charges are punishing the innocent long before they are brought to trial”, it stated.

The statement raised the question: “What was Umar Khalid’s crime?”

It said, “That he used the passion of his commitment to his country, marshalled his education and his voice to join the movement for equal citizenship, against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act [CAA]; this law introduced religion as a criterion for citizenship, and has no place in a secular nation”.

CAA threat

The CAA, along with the proposed National Register of Citizens, threatened the citizenship of millions of the poorest in the country, particularly targeting Muslims, it alleged.

“Much like Black Lives Matter, the movement against CAA-NRC with full participation of all democratic rights actors, was led by those most affected-Muslims and especially Muslim women; students across universities, regions, classes and religions played a leading role”, it said.

Mr. Khalid had become a powerful voice in the movement and had spoken at nearly 100 meetings. “Today, Umar Khalid joins a long list of those targeted, implicated and unjustly incarcerated under UAPA, only because they were active in the equal citizenship movement, against the CAA-NRC”, it observed.

Kapil Mishra’s speech

The group said that BJP leader Kapil Mishra had not faced any police scrutiny despite threatening that his supporters would take matters into their own hands if the anti-CAA protesters were not removed.

“This speech is widely alleged to have triggered the violence between 23 and 26 February 2020. Instead, young protesters have been targeted and thrown into jail...We call on the Government of India to: Free Umar Khalid and all those falsely implicated and unjustly incarcerated for protesting against the CAA-NRC that denies equal citizenship rights and ensure that the Delhi Police investigates the Delhi riots with impartiality under the oath they took as public servants bound by the Constitution of India”, it added.

Among the signatories were Angela Davis, Rajmohan Gandhi, Cornel West, James Galbraith, Amitav Ghosh, and Arundhati Roy.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2020 5:42:45 PM |

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