Umar Khalid Arrested: JNUSU Condemns ‘Witch Hunt’ of Activists

The JNUSU issued a statement seeking unity of progressive factions against the current ruling.

4 min read

Condemning former JNU student and activist Umar Khalid’s arrest under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) on Monday, 14 September, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) issued a statement seeking unity of progressive factions against the current ruling dispensation’s attempts to “criminalise democratic protests against CAA-NRC-NPR”.

“The JNUSU condemns the continuing witch hunt and targeting of activists. We reiterate that all these actions are a means to criminalise the democratic protest against the CAA-NRC-NPR which is a divisive, discriminatory and communal agenda of the BJP RSS implemented by the Union Government,” the statement read, urging “all progressive sections to stand united and vigilant, and unfazed by such cowardly actions.”

Meanwhile, faculty and students of IIM Bangalore have also issued a statement in solidarity with Khalid and condemning the arrest of academics and activists who have resisted the CAA.

“We also call upon fellow academics around the country to speak up and resist this unconstitutional use of force to crush legitimate dissent that is an important fount of our democracy. A climate of fear and repression is an existential threat to any university's core academic mission,” the statement read.

Why Was Khalid Arrested?

After interrogating former JNU student and United Against Hate member Umar Khalid for eleven hours on Sunday, 13 September, the Delhi Police arrested him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) post-midnight for his alleged role in the Delhi riots of February 2020.

Khalid had been named in several charge sheets and projected as the ‘mastermind’ and ‘conspirator’ of the riots. He came to Delhi from Kolkata in August when he was summoned by the Delhi Police special cell for the first time. During questioning, his phone had been seized by the police.

His father, national president of the Welfare Party of India, SQR Ilyas tweeted on Sunday night, "My son Umar Khalid has been arrested tonight at 11:00 pm by Special Cell, Delhi Police under UAPA. Police was questioning him since 1:00 pm. He has been implicated in Delhi Riots.”

Earlier, the Delhi Police had added the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act to the FIR related to the northeast Delhi violence, which named Khalid among others. In the FIR, the police had claimed that the communal violence was a “premeditated conspiracy” which was allegedly hatched by Khalid and two others.

The FIR alleged that Khalid had allegedly given provocative speeches at two different places and appealed to the citizens to come out on streets and block the roads during the visit of US President Donald Trump to spread propaganda at the international level about how minorities in India are being persecuted.


United Against Hate’s Statement

After 11 hours of interrogation, the Delhi Police Special Cell has arrested Umar Khalid as a "conspirator" in the Delhi Riots case.
The fairytale narrative that DP has been spinning criminalizing protests in the garb of investigating riots, find yet another victim.
The fight against draconian CAA and UAPA will go on despite all these horrid measures of intimidation.
Right now, our first priority is that he should be given maximum security and the Delhi Police must ensure his safety by all means possible.

A statement was also put out by civil society members in solidarity with the student leader. It was signed by several people, including writer and activist Farah Naqvi, Karwan E Mohabbat founder Harsh Mander and Delhi University professor Apoorvanand.

The statement reads:

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 past precedence of physical attacks in court premises in the instance of Kanhaiya, and the attempt on Umar’s life in 2018 by gunmen in public, we urge that it is imperative that all measures are taken to avoid any threat to his life and limbs so long as he is 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 are also trying to influence the course of justice. This must cease by all means. If left onto the course of law, we are confident that justice would prevail.


Ravi Kiran Jain, V Suresh, Mihir Desai, ND Pancholi, Satish Deshpande, Mary John, Apoorvanand, Aakar Patel, Harsh Mander, Farah Naqvi, Biraj Patnaik, Nandini Sundar

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