Activists stand in solidarity with former JNU student Khalid
New Delhi: Scores of students, civil rights activists and media personalities gathered here on Friday to express solidarity with former JNU student leader Umar Khalid after he completed 1,000 days of incarceration in the 2020 northeast Delhi riots case.
The activists gathered at the Press Club to talk about ‘Democracy, Dissent and Censorship’, saying Khalid’s 1,000 days of imprisonment equals to “1,000 days of resistance”.
The event was earlier scheduled to be held at the Gandhi Peace Foundation, but the activists claimed police forced the venue managers to cancel their booking.
Khalid was arrested by Delhi Police in 2020 and charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and provisions of the Indian Penal Code. Police claimed he was the mastermind of the northeast Delhi riots which had left 53 people dead and over 700 injured.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader and Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Jha said, “This is 1,000 days of imprisonment as well as 1,000 days of resistance. Umar Khalid will be very happy to know that in this scorching heat, hundreds of people gathered to defend democracy.
“This solidarity is not just for Umar, but for every political prisoner. This is a fight of memory. A dominant memory is mainstream today, while the memories of marginalised communities are ignored,” he said.
Senior journalist Ravish Kumar said the road to the door of justice has been stretched too far for those like Khalid.
“Remember 1,000 days that have passed. Remember that these are not just 1,000 days since Khalid’s incarceration, but also 1,000 days of shame for the Indian judicial system,” he said.
Present at the event was also Khalid’s father S Q R Ilyas who said the confines of the prison walls has not dampened the spirit of his son.
“Has 1,000 days of jail dented Umar’s confidence, has it dampened the spirits of his friends? Absolutely not. When I see all those who have been jailed during their court hearings, I see confidence in their faces, they know that they are in jail for a cause,” he said.
He said his son is fighting for the country and democracy.
Ilyas demanded the release of all ‘political prisoners’, including his son, Sharjeel Imam, Khalid Saifi, Shifa Ur Rehman and others.
On the row over the event’s venue, Supreme Court advocate Shahrukh Alam said the venue was cancelled following an intervention by the Delhi Police.