Lawyers carry an effigy as they march from Patiala House Courts to India Gate. (Photo: The Quint)
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An Open Letter to DSU’s Umar Khaled From a JNU Alumnus

Dear Umar Khaled,

You don’t know me and I don’t know you either. That was until you became Indian media’s newest catch – “The terrorist mastermind from JNU, hub of all anti-national activities.” Let me introduce myself, I am a JNU alumnus. I spent two years doing my Masters in JNU at CSSS and am now a Bollywood actress. I was never a member of any student political party in JNU though I voted Left.

DSU (Democratic Students Union) reappeared in JNU after a hiatus sometime during my two years there and I always found DSU students and their positions far too extremist and radical to be practically possible and also too dogmatic for my liking. But then my leftist friends accused me of being both a centre-ist and also a rich – privileged English-speaking bourgeoisie – elite brat! I don’t think we would have been friends even.

My initial reaction to this whole Afzal Guru event, the anti-India sloganeering and pro-Kashmiri independence chants was “Oh boy! DSU at it again!!” I scoffed and chatted with friends about how silly DSU still was. That was until Kanhaiya was arrested and you and six or seven others went underground, everyone got slapped with sedition charges and the public discourse in this country erupted into the most emotive and also most polemical discussion about patriotism and sedition. Trust you guys in DSU to phailaao raitaa as we say in Hindi!!! Kabhi chain nahi aataa na tum logon ko!

The Runaway Terrorist

Students agitating for the release of JNU Students’ Union President Kanhaiya Kumar at the university  campus. (Photo: PTI)
Students agitating for the release of JNU Students’ Union President Kanhaiya Kumar at the university campus. (Photo: PTI)

Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about you. I was totally focused on freeing Kanhaiya by waging my little Facebook-Twitter war with hordes of blood-thirsty desh-bhakts/ patriots, who have suddenly appeared to #ShutDownJNU (which they will on Twitter, at least, if nowhere else ); until I was on a TV panel that began to flash “UMAR KHALED a JAISH-E-MOHAMMAD sympathiser” and as proof, touted that you went to Pakistan and Kashmir and invited hordes of Kashmiris onto campus. And I thought, “Oh shit! I’ve been to Pakistan. Not once but twice!!”

By the way – if you are not already aware – it seems you were also the mastermind of plans to disintergrate India!! And while I tried to defend you amidst Rahul-Shivshankar-aka-wannabe-Arnab’s assumption-filled sweeping generalisations, I thought to myself, “Damn this DSU pest! 25 sey zyada log inkey events mein aatey nahi! Yeh India todney lagey!!” That evening I learnt that you were no longer a DSU member; because the roughly 10-member-strong DSU dissolved when eight of you resigned from it. If your life was not in danger right now, I would be laughing at you and ribbing you no end about this.

I went back to ignoring you as support for Kanhaiya mounted in the mainstream discourse. And then an ex-JNU friend of mine told me on the phone from Kolkata, “Yaar Kanhaiya will be free soon. It’s this Umar guy I am scared about.” I was still irritated at you for popping in and out of my mentalscape and I said casually, “But he is a DSU idiot! What was the need to raise such stupid and immature slogans…… unnecessarily provocative na!” And she replied, “That’s not the point. The point is he is being witch-hunted for having an opinion. And I’m telling you they are going to kill him!” The conversation soon ended but deep discomfiture had begun to take root in the pit of my stomach. This discomfiture expanded steadily in the coming days as I began to see your name flashing everywhere as the runaway TERRORIST.

As Delhi Police’s claims about Kanhaiya’s sedition began to collapse into a murky and shameful tale of photoshop and video and audio morphing; another more sinister tale began to be woven. A tale that spun you, yes you – you DSU pest – into a villain more hated than Badshah Aurangazeb himself. After your family clarified that you didn’t have a passport, Delhi Police came up with even more fantastic tales. Call records showing more than 800 calls from your phone showed up and these included calls to Kashmir (38 times) and also to Bangladesh and the Gulf. Please note that this is being considered the most incriminating evidence of your terror links. That, and oh yes! The police has unearthed that your father was a member of SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India). It makes no difference to point out that this was in the 1980s when SIMI was not banned and was a legitimate students body and that your father voluntarily left the organisation.

Separatists VS Terrorists

(Photo: The Quint)
(Photo: The Quint)

Your family, I’m sorry to tell you, is being harassed. Your parents and sisters are being threatened in diverse ways and some particularly crude, vulgar, idiotic and offensive anchors actually dared to ask your father if he would apologise (to the nation, we presume) for your actions. You should be proud of your father’s dignified and collected response to the same.

Umar, I want to ask you a very important question!

Are you an idiot???????

You went onto national television, not once but two or three times and admitted that you believe in

1. The Right of Kashmiris to Self-Determination
2. The Right of Kashmir to secede from India

Yes I know, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first PM of India, agreed to a UN resolution giving Kashmir the right to self-determination. And he was no terrorist. Yes, yes, the Hurriyat Conference, separatists in Kashmir have called for Kashmiri Azaadi for years, they have celebrated Afzal Guru as a martyr. Does the government call them terrorists? NO.

The government (including the one led by Atal Behari Vajpayee) talked to them. They are called separatists not terrorists, though they have often supported terror outfits in political arguments, still they are termed separatists not terrorists.

Arre baba I know! BJP’s ally in J&K, PDP is led by Mehbooba Mufti – and yes, this party hails Afzal Guru as a martyr of Kashmir, as a hero. And the BJP is in a political alliance with them. Neither PDP nor Mufti are accused of terror. The USA, India’s latest strategic partner and new best friend has for years maintained that Kashmir is a disputed issue and remains unresolved. The new-found closeness between India and USA (which attacked Iraq in 2003 over a set of false assertions, let’s not even mention Vietnam) is one of the great achievements of the Modi government. No terror accusations there.

I guess you thought that if the above can profess or support Kashmiri self- determination, so can you. I guess you thought you are merely stating an intellectual and philosophical/political position.

I guess you didn’t realise your comments would be edited out and played and replayed with sensationalist headlines asking ‘the nation’ to decide what your fate should be. And I guess you didn’t anticipate that hordes would be waiting in lynch mobs to avenge their Bharat Mata’s supposed barbaadi on you.

Achhaa tell me one thing, you didn’t for a moment consider that you are a Muslim and would be setting yourself up quite prettily for the guillotine? Oh sorry, I forgot; you are a self professed atheist and communist and would fight with your Muslim family about their being the ‘ignorant faithful’. I heard they called you a ‘Communist Paagal’; which you really are, I must say.

Quite the Kurtz!

Lawyers wave tri-colour at Patiala House Court where JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar,  who was arrested on a sedition charge, was produced in New Delhi, on February 17, 2016. (Photo: PTI)
Lawyers wave tri-colour at Patiala House Court where JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, who was arrested on a sedition charge, was produced in New Delhi, on February 17, 2016. (Photo: PTI)

The media says you made more than 800 calls, some channels said 860 calls to Kashmir, Bangladesh and the Gulf over four days in early February. You must be quite a Superman Umar. That works out to … (let’s see 860 divided by four days, 215 calls per day divided by .. how many hours did yousleep? Or do ultra-leftists sleep at all?? 215 divided by 24 hours is…) 8.9 calls per hour, assuming you didn’t sleep at all and 12.6 calls per hour if you slept for 7 hours a day. And you also managed to abscond while making these relentless calls. Bro, you are Batman!

The news channels also said your phone reported to be on roaming 17 times in one month. You made 38 calls to Kashmir and received a total of 65 calls. Your phone showed activity in Delhi, West Bengal, Bihar, Kerala, Karnataka, Orissa, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Kashmir, of course. I dare not suppose that this had anything to do with the PhD you are researching on Adivasi History in the Centre for Historical Studies in JNU?

Or maybe you must have single-handedly been planning a revolution – the DSU pest that you are – sorry ex-DSU. By the way, is it true that you turned down a scholarship at Yale University, US to continue to live and study in India so you could work at the grassroots for the causes that you believed in? No, not the alleged Jihad cause, but the benefit of Dalits and Adivasis? Is this true? Wow! You are turning out to be quite the Kurtz from Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Okay final question. Why did you go into hiding and not surrender to the police? You know that is being taken as the most incriminating evidence of your guilt of being a terror sympathiser, if not a terrorist, right? I guess your decision to flee and not surrender has nothing to do with the case of Comrade Hem Mishra about three years ago. I heard he was a leftist cultural activist in JNU (or was he not even from JNU? ) and he got picked up on the charge of being a Naxalite. For three months no one knew where he was. His family was not informed and he was not even brought before a magistrate, as he too was charged with sedition. He was in prison for over a year and was brutally tortured. Finally, the state authorities had to let him go as they could find no proof of any real seditious activity on him. Perhaps you heard of this story and were scared?

I guess in some way you anticipated the right thing. You must have heard how hooligan lawyers beat up JNU teachers, students, the media and Kanhaiyya, not once but TWICE in Patiala House Court with Delhi Police watching quietly both times. The Supreme Court had to send an investigative team which also got heckled and abused. The lawyer goons who did this are roaming free and being garlanded by other potential goons while Kanhaiyya is in jail.

You must be smirking right now saying “I told you so! The State is the greatest instrument of violence!” Oh shut up Umar!

A Scapegoat

“Dissent is not Sedition”. (Photo courtesy: Facebook/Shravya Mallavarapu)
“Dissent is not Sedition”. (Photo courtesy: Facebook/Shravya Mallavarapu)

I guess you have no faith in this government which suggested that you took money from Pakistani terrorist leader Hafiz Saeed based on a tweet from a fake twitter handle and the Delhi Police – which has spent the last month only beating students or letting goons beat them. I wish I could tell you something that will make you have some faith in the state institutions of our country, but I can’t think of anything right now. Perhaps, if I do some research...

I wish I could tell you that about 15,000 people turned up at a march in Delhi to Save JNU, Free Kanhaiya and some even to Stop The Witch-Hunt of Umar Khaled. I wish I could say that these people and some select media personnel will fight your case and ensure that you get a free trial, so please come out and surrender to the courts of the country. But I can’t. Not because I doubt the good intentions of the protesters. But because I don’t know what or who lies in wait for you at the courts. Or in the jail for that matter.

I don’t want to convince you to surrender and then have you beaten to death by self-righteously-patriotic-hooligan mobs; or tortured by arrogant and indifferent right-wing cops in prison cells. I don’t want your death or torture (God forbid, I mean Marx forbid) to be on my head. That glory should lie with Arnab Goswami (Times Now), Rahul Shivshankar (News X), that guy on Zee News who was yelling at you, India TV and all those other hysterical anchors. Let them be known as your murderers.

Are you also scared that once Kanhaiya is released, because there really is NO proof on him, the government will need a scapegoat and the bloodthirsty-frothing-patriotic citizens and netizens will need some meat. Your Muslim name and stupidly radical views on National Television will provide the correct combination to turn you into terrorist sample – par-excellence? You will be caught and then the media will turn its attention to the Budget and patriots will go back to Whatsapp-ing and making weekend plans. I hate to admit that you – you stupid radical communist pest – are probably right.

Anyway, I am helpless in terms of advice or suggestions really, except to reach out to you and say, don’t go the Rohith Vemula way, please! And also say that I don’t think you are a terrorist, Umar. I think you are a bloody idiot for speaking the truth about your views on the media trial that you were subjected to. You should have lied! You are an idiot, but not a terrorist (until otherwise proven in an Indian court of law under a fair trial), but I would give the Centre of Historical Studies at JNU more credit for that! Any real student of History couldn’t possibly turn terrorist.

No, you are not a terrorist Umar Khaled, you are a radical and an idiot with poor judgement of what to say where, but you do NOT deserve to be jailed, tortured or killed for that.

Yours worried and still irritated !!

Swara Bhaskar