Is it my crime that I say India is as much mine as yours: Umar Khalid
New Delhi: "The Delhi Police wants to arrest me but the real rioters and those who incited the riots are neither being booked, caught nor questioned. Not only do they want to silence my voice, but also to trap you in a lie… I want to tell you all, don't be afraid, we need to fight injustice...", Umar Khalid said in a message recorded just prior to his arrest. At the beginning of the video, he said, "If you're watching this video, I have been arrested."
The video was played at a presser where senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, former DUTA president Nandita Narain, activist Kavita Krishnan, author Sayeda Hameed, and journalist Pamela Philipose were addressing the Delhi Police's "vicious witch-hunt" in its investigations into the riots in north-east Delhi in February. Khalid's parents, mother Sabiha Khanum and father Syed Qasim Rasool Ilyas were also there.
In his video, Umar asked, "What is my crime? Is it my crime that I say this beautiful country is as much mine as yours?"
"Umar Khalid himself, before he was jailed, wrote to Delhi Police Commissioner SN Srivastava that the police was putting pressure on his acquaintances to implicate him in the case", Philipose said. Away from public gaze, the Delhi Police is using its special cell to arrest voices of dissent in the "absence of real evidence and charging them with conspiracy against the State", she added.
Harsh Mander and Dr Apoorvanand were also in attendance and all present wore face masks that said "Mai bhi Umar Khalid", while many held up placards with pictures of student Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita, ex-Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan, activist Khalid Saifi, and Jamia student Safoora Zargar, among others. Narwal, Kalita, Ishrat, Khalid and Safoora have all been named in the chargesheet filed by Special Cell on Wednesday.
While the police arrested Umar in the same case, they are yet to file a chargesheet against him, with the current one saying they will be filing a supplementary chargesheet against the six other accused arrested under UAPA in the case.
Calling Khalid's, and other students' arrest unconstitutional, Bhushan said that while the innocent were behind bars, "Those who have been recorded on video inciting violence in the riots, Anurag Thakur, Kapil Mishra, Parvesh Verma... as verified even by a High Court judge" are scot-free since "no action has been taken against them, no FIR has been lodged, and no investigation has been done."
Bhushan called the Delhi Police's current investigation, and attempt to frame students and activists who had expressed their opposition to the CAA and the NRC, was "a criminal conspiracy to frame innocent people who were peacefully protesting, while letting off those against whom unimpeachable evidence is available."
CPIML Politbureau member Kavita Krishnan said, "They have 11 lakh pages of evidence against students but not one page of data on daily wage workers who died walking on foot, struggling to reach their homes in the middle of this pandemic". Krishnan also asked for the release of Gulfisha Fatima, another student arrested by the police in connection with the riots.
The "ugly cruelty, and lack of basic humanity" displayed by the Delhi Police, where they did not let critically wounded people and ambulances reach hospitals, and repeatedly ignored calls for help from areas where violence flared up, is a clear indication that they were "acting as a private instrument of the government", the panelists said. They also quoted Praveer Ranjan, Special Commissioner, Crime and Economic Offences Wing, ordering his officers to "take special care and precautions to avoid Hindu resentment" while making arrests in the cases arising from the riots.
Citing the nationwide student protest movement against the CAA/NRC, Narain said, "Those who raise their voice against the marginalised are also being targeted". The speakers issued a public statement demanding the release of all activists booked under the UAPA, and that a judicial inquiry commission be formed "to punish the real culprits".