A social media vitriol before Delhi Police presents charges against Umar Khalid
new delhi: A day after a Delhi court sent former JNU student leader Umar Khalid to 10 days in police custody after being arrested under the stringent UAPA, social media users and largely people who claim to be supporters of the ruling dispensation have launched a vitriolic campaign calling him a terrorist.
Significantly, however, while the Delhi Police has arrested Khalid and claims to have 11 lakh pages of "evidence" that he must be confronted with, it has not yet made any specific allegation against Khalid publicly. In its remand application, the police said he made two speeches at two different locations which purportedly incited the north-east Delhi riots but refused to divulge when and where the speeches were delivered and neither did it divulge the contents of the speeches.
On Twitter, the hashtags #UmarKhalidIsATerrorist, #UmarKhalidTerrorist, #UmarKhalidKoDeDoAzaadi (grant freedom to Umar Khalid), and #UmarKhalidPregnant were among a choice few being used by people who were celebrating his arrest. Among other users describing themselves as nationalist Hindus, and supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party, calling Khalid a 'terrorist' before any evidence has been produced, were BJP MLA from Khurja (UP) Vijendra Singh and ABVP student leaders Anima Sonkar and Lokendra Singh Raythaliya, and BJP leader Kapil Mishra.
Interestingly, one of the hashtags is part of what Kapil Mishra and his supporters were seen and heard chanting as they attacked Muslim-dominated areas during the riots, that is, to grant them (Muslims) freedom (death) if they want it so much. The #UmarKhalidPregnant hashtag was used with a cartoon of Khalid's face superimposed on Safoora Zargar's. Zargar was also arrested under the UAPA while pregnant, getting bail only after three failed attempts, and was the subject of several misogynistic and Islamophobic comments on social media.
Another user made a YouTube video on how and why Khalid should have been arrested despite the police telling the court that no details of purported evidence against him can be made public for want of maintaining the "sanctity of the investigation" under UAPA. Several users also replied to tweets from supporters saying that those who supported Khalid were next on the Delhi Police's list. Images of a dog being thrown inside a pest control van were also shared with the caption 'Delhi Police arresting Umar Khalid'.
On the other side, many prominent public figures tweeted in support of Khalid with the hashtag #IStandWithUmarKhalid. Swara Bhaskar tweeted asking for Khalid to be freed and for the UAPA to be scrapped. Kunal Kamra put out a statement in support of Khalid saying that he knew him personally and that Khalid brought "love, light and unity to the fight for this nation". Rana Ayyub, Prakash Raj, Prashant Raj, Yogendra Yadav and Sitaram Yechury, among others, also called for Khalid's release and supported his right to dissent.