Several members of the civil society, including journalists and politicians, on Monday demanded the release of activist Umar Khalid in the Delhi violence case, after a year of his arrest, reported The Hindu. Khalid has been charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act in the case.
The group held a meeting at the Press Club of India in New Delhi. They said that young activists like Khalid had been targeted for speaking up against the government.
Former Jawaharlal Nehru University student, Khalid, was arrested along with several other activists after clashes broke out between the supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act and those opposing the law in North East Delhi between February 23 and February 26, 2020.
The violence in North East Delhi claimed 53 lives and hundreds were injured.
The clashes followed countrywide protests that began in 2019 against the Citizenship Amendment Act, which introduced a religious criterion for citizenship for the first time.
It offered a fast track to Indian citizenship for undocumented migrants from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan – but only if they were not Muslim.
On Monday, the participants at the meeting demanded Khalid’s release from “unjust imprisonment”. The group blamed the central government for targeting “public spirited activists and the youth” through doctored investigations by the Delhi Police, according to The Hindu.
Former member of the Planning Commission Syeda Hamid said that Khalid’s “only crime was that he was upholding the Constitution and was raising his voice”. Hamid said that Khalid stood by the women protestors in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area, reported The Quint.
Former Delhi Minorities Commission chairperson Zafarul Islam Khan said that the victims of the Delhi riots had been turned in to conspirators, reported The Hindu. He claimed that several first information reports had been clubbed so that a proper inquiry could not be done.
“Local victims are also not being helped much even though they were the ones most affected,” Khan told the newspaper. “We need to ensure black laws such as the UAPA are removed, else this pattern is bound to continue.”
Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Manoj Kumar Jha told The Hindu that during these difficult times, there were heroes who have been jailed for “speaking against the government”.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan said that despite video evidence of those perpetrating violence in North East Delhi in February 2020, “public-spirited youth and Muslims” were targeted. He alleged that this was a conspiracy to frame those who were innocent and let the guilty remain free.
The meeting at the Press Club of India was moderated by author and activist Farah Naqvi and The Wire Founding Editor Siddharth Varadarajan.
On September 6, Khalid filed a new bail plea, under a separate provision, in the case related to the violence in North East Delhi in February 2020.
In multiple chargesheets related to the Delhi riots, the police claimed that the violence was part of a larger conspiracy to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. They alleged that it was planned by those who organised protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
The Delhi Police also alleged that Khalid had made two speeches that instigated protestors to block roads in the city in February 2020, during the visit of Donald Trump, who was then the president of the United States.