To mark one year of PhD scholar Umar Khalid's continuing imprisonment after his arrest in the “infamous FIR 59” of the Delhi Riots, activists and citizens held a public meeting at the Press Club of India on Monday, 13 September, to condemn the “openly communal, false charge-sheets, doctored evidence and dubious witness statements” used to "rob bright young people like Umar Khalid of their freedom.”
The speakers at the meeting included Rajya Sabha MP Manoj K Jha, former Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed, lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan, senior journalist Siddharth Varadarajan, Zafarul Islam Khan (Ex-Chairperson, Delhi Minorities Commission), among others. The programme was moderated by author and activist Farah Naqvi.
‘An Educated Muslim Is an Eyesore’ for the Regime: Syeda Hameed
After the Delhi Riots in February last year, the Special Cell of Delhi Police had called in Umar Khalid for questioning. Following which , he was arrested and later charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). He was the 16th person to be booked under the UAPA in the FIR 59.
Speaking at the event, Syeda Hameed said, “His only fault was to uphold the constitution and oppose CAA, NPR, NRC. He saluted the women of Shaheen Bagh in Amaravati and called for upholding Gandhiji's ideals.”
She added, “He saluted the women who came out on the streets when students of Jamia were brutally repressed, and stayed outside for 101 days. The regime was scared of this courage. For them an educated Muslim is an eyesore.”
'A Conspiracy To Frame Innocents'
Calling the charge sheet ridiculous, Siddharth Varadarajan explained, “One of the arguments being made was that the purpose behind the riots in Delhi on the eve of Donald Trump visit, was to highlight anti-CAA sentiments and defame the Prime Minister. This is a brazen lie given that International media had been reporting the protests since last December.”
He added that the reason for criminalising anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protesters was to cover up the real perpetrators of Delhi riots.
He asserted that “Umar can be arrested under UAPA but Hindutva leaders who called for genocide against Muslims were booked under flimsy sections so that they can get easy bail.”
Meanwhile, Prashant Bhushan said, “This is not an investigation of a conspiracy; it's rather a conspiracy to frame innocents and cover up real perpetrators.”
Calling Umar “one of the brightest and most uncontaminated minds of this age”, Manoj Jha said that Meeran Haider was one who was working for relief and added, “In these difficult times you will not find heroes in films, but behind bars for speaking up against the government."
Recounting reasons why people like Khalid are behind bars, Bhushan concluded:
“An authoritarian state needs enemies, Umar has been made into one. The BJP is threatened by a young crop of leadership that has emerged from the people's movement. Devangana [Kalita], Umar and the others are all part of the educated, articulate, non-institutionalised, organic leadership vouching for secularism and constitutionalism, for religious pluralism, ecological justice, gender justice, justice for Dalits, who scare this government. That is why he is jail.”