Student activist Umar Khalid was attacked by unidentified men outside the Constitution Club in New Delhi on Monday, PTI reported. A gun was reportedly found at the scene of the attack, and witnesses claimed two shots were fired. Khalid escaped unhurt.
The Jawaharlal Nehru University student was scheduled to attend an event titled “Towards a Freedom Without Fear” at the venue, which is in the high-security zone of Sansad Marg Area. Khalid told The Quint that he escaped as his friends overpowered the attacker.
“I was very scared at that moment when he pointed that gun at me,” he told The Quint. “That moment I was reminded of what happened to [journalist] Gauri Lankesh. I thought that moment has arrived. I am very thankful for my friends who overpowered him and my life was saved.”
The police said two attackers reportedly escaped the site. Investigators are trying to verify if Khalid was the target of the attack.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Madhur Verma told ANI: “Umar Khalid said that he was attacked. Somebody pounced on him and pushed, thereafter he tried to fire at Khalid, but couldn’t. According to Khalid, the attacker fired in the air and was chased by people.”
Verma said the police have registered a case of attempt to murder against unidentified suspects. Investigators have found that the weapon fired a shot when an attacker accidentally dropped it. Charges under the Arms Act have also been pressed, Verma added.
Joint Commissioner of Police Ajay Chaudhary had earlier said that a man had attacked from behind while Khalid and his companions were having tea at a stall.
Khalid shot into the limelight after an event at JNU in February 2016, when he and some other students were accused of shouting “anti-national slogans”. The event was organised to commemorate the death anniversary of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, who was hanged to death. Former president of JNU Students’ Union, Kanhaiya Kumar, was also accused along with Khalid.
‘Culmination of government’s hate-filled propaganda’
The JNU Students’ Union expressed its shock and concern at the “cowardly attack”. In a statement, the JNUSU said, “We see this cowardly act as a culmination of the hate-filled propaganda that this Modi government onward has spewed against Umar, JNU students, and all those voices who have questioned this regime.”
The JNUSU said that mob lynchings and attacks on common people had become the norm. They demanded “speedy justice”, asking the Delhi Police to take appropriate action against the culprits. The statement further said that such incidents would not curb “fearless voices” of the students’ movement.
Meanwhile, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted, “Wage a motivated hate campaign against individuals & sooner or later someone will feel emboldened enough to take the law into their own hands. The attack on @UmarKhalidJNU is the direct result of the relentless hate campaign using both social & mainstream media. Glad he’s well.”
Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani tweeted, “Even those media groups, who are working to help BJP achieve political gains, and call Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid as members of ‘tukde tukde gang’ and ‘anti-nationals’ are also to be blamed for the attack.” The Independent MLA from Gujarat also claimed that after receiving death threats last month, Khalid, Rashid and he had sought police protection, but no one was given any kind of security.
Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Shehla Rashid said the incident was the “direct result of hatred whipped up by ... and other hate media”.
Social activist Kavita Krishnan also blamed certain news channels for the attack.
J&K Police file FIR against gangster
JNU student Shehla Rashid said the Jammu and Kashmir Police have filed a first information report against gangster Ravi Poojary for reportedly sending her a threatening SMS a few hours after the attack on Khalid.
Rashid said the SMS read: “Just Shut Your Mouth Or we will Shut Your Mouth Forever. Tell Umar Khalid And Jignesh Mevani Also. MAFIA DON RAVI POOJARY”.
“Poojary had earlier threatened Jignesh Mevani using similar language in an SMS that mentioned the names of Umar Khalid and myself,” the JNU student activist said. “He had earlier threatened to murder [Hurriyat Conference leader] Syed Ali Shah Geelani, apart from several Bollywood actors. It is pertinent to note that Poojary currently resides in Australia, which has an extradition treaty with India. However, India is not seeking his extradition because he’s threatening [and possibly attacking] anti-government voices.”
She accused the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre of patronising and promoting such violent elements. “The attack on Umar Khalid earlier today is also a symptom of the same phenomenon: the central government’s tacit support to saffron terrorists,” said Rashid. “This is further aided by saffron media outlets which propagate hate and violence on prime time shows.”
The student activist also said that the attack on Khalid should be seen in the “series of fatal attacks carried out on activists and rationalists such as Gauri Lankesh, MM Kalburghi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar”.