Delhi: Activists’ press conference condemns Umar Khalid’s arrest
Umar Khalid has been arrested for his alleged role in orchestrating the north-east riots in Delhi in FebruaryUpdated: Sep 16, 2020 15:28 IST
A group of civil society activists on Wednesday condemned the Delhi Police’s arrest of student activist Umar Khalid under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act (UAPAA) Act, 2019, calling it an “inquisition of the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019 protests” and a “witch-hunt against young minds”.
Khalid has been arrested for his alleged role in orchestrating the north-east riots in Delhi in February, which had claimed 53 lives and injured over 400 people.
The press conference was attended by former member of the Planning Commission Syeda Hameed; Supreme Court (SC) lawyer Prashant Bhushan; Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation, or CPI (ML), leader Kavita Krishnan; senior journalist Pamela Philipose; and former Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) president Nandita Narain.
Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Kanhaiya Kumar, who was also a speaker and had been arrested along with Khalid in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) sedition case in 2016, could not attend the event.
However, he released a statement on social media.
“Questions must be raised over the investigation of Delhi riots as the purpose of this probe is not to ensure justice but to take political revenge,” Kumar said.
He demanded questioning of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, who had “incited the riots”.
Those present at the gathering, including Khalid’s mother and civil society activist Harsh Mander, wore masks with faces of other arrested student activists to show solidarity and also held placards of their names. The organisers played a pre-recorded video of Khalid before his arrest.
“I gave a 17-minute speech out of which 20-30 seconds is being made viral stating that I conspired in the north-east Delhi riots. The part, where I had talked about satyagraha, is nowhere to be heard. The ones who spoke up are being put behind bars but my message to everyone is that one must not be scared and speak out against injustice,” he said in the video.
Bhushan said, “Police said that the members of a WhatsApp group, organised with the objective to support the exemplary peaceful [anti-CAA] protests, are conspirators. But people like Kapil Mishra, who were instigating violence by saying ‘goli maro’, did not face any action.”
Mishra, who had denied allegations of his involvement in the riots, on Monday released a video congratulating Delhi Police for arresting Khalid and “people like him”, and likened the February riots to the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
Bhushan alleged that the Delhi Police was indulging in “criminal conspiracy” in the name of investigation. “In the name of investigation, the Delhi Police is indulging in criminal conspiracy to frame innocent people who were protesting peacefully against an unconstitutional law. It is a conspiracy to let off those against whom unimpeachable evidence is available to show their involvement in these riots. Some of us wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind a few days ago that there needs to be a commission of inquiry (CoI) into the investigation by the Delhi Police itself as it had happened during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots,” he said.
“We have gathered here today to express our collective anguish at the sheer brazenness with which the Delhi Police has turned the investigation into the February violence in the national capital into an inquisition of the anti-CAA protests,” the attendees said in a statement.
“We demand an immediate end to this outrageous investigation that is being conducted with prejudice and mala fide intent. We demand that activists booked under the UAPAA be immediately released; and a judicial enquiry commission be constituted to punish the real culprits and ensure justice for Delhi violence,” it added.
Delhi Police had contended that an examination of witnesses revealed that Khalid was coordinating between protest sites in Delhi in connivance with other arrested accused.
Delhi Police had claimed that Khalid, along with some other prominent anti-CAA protesters, had used the protest sites to plan and orchestrate the riots.
Delhi Police has argued almost an equal number of Hindu and Muslims rioters were booked and it is conducting a ‘free and fair investigation”.