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Delhi Police Arrest Umar Khalid In Connection With Anti-Muslim Delhi Pogrom, Academics, Activists Call It A ‘Witch Hunt’ & Demand His Release

Former JNU student leader Umar Khalid was arrested on Sunday by the Delhi police for allegedly “conspiring” in the anti-Muslim Delhi pogrom, which took place in the last week of February.

The Delhi Police’s Special Cell arrested Umar under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act after nearly 11 hours of questioning, his father and National President of Welfare Party of India, SQR Ilyas tweeted.

NDTV quoted a member of the collective United Against Hate, of which Khalid is a part, as saying, “After 11 hours of interrogation, the Delhi Police Special Cell has arrested Umar Khalid as a conspirator in the Delhi Riots case. The fairy tale narrative that DP (Delhi Police) has been spinning and criminalising protests in the garb of investigating riots, finds yet another victim.”

Umar is one of the many people who have protested against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to have been summoned or arrested in connection with the Delhi Pogrom, in which more than 50 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

Umar’s arrest comes after the Delhi police also named CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, economist Jayati Ghosh and Yogendra Yadav in a supplementary chargesheet in relation to the case.

As news of Umar’s arrest broke, a press statement issued by a group of rights activists, academics and lawyers described the political activist as “one of our bravest young voices who spoke for the constitutional values of our country” and condemned the police action against him as a ‘witch hunt’.

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“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,” the statement says. “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.”

Describing Umar as “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”, the statement said that “he has emerged as a strong and powerful voice of young Indians in favour of the constitution and of democracy.”

The signatories to the statement are Ravi Kiran Jain and V. Suresh of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties, lawyers Mihir Desai and N.D. Pancholi, academics Satish Deshpande, Mary John, Apoorvanand, Nandini Sundar and Shuddhabrata Sengupta, and rights activists Aakar Patel, Harsh Mander, Farah Naqvi and Biraj Patnaik.

The group said the “repeated attempts by the Delhi police to implicate [Khalid] 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”. They also drew attention to the manner in which young people have been targeted:

“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.”

They said that the right to life was “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” and that the “objective of this witch hunt” the police has launched in the name of an investigation is “to silence democratic voices and instil fear.”

#StandWithUmarKhalid

People also took to Twitter slamming Umar’s arrest using the hashtag #StandWithUmarKhalid.

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Also read: Delhi Pogrom: A Timeline Of Killings, Indifference & Absolute Impunity

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