The Delhi Police Crime Branch has questioned former Jawaharlal Nehru University student Umar Khalid for over four hours in connection with the communal violence that broke out in the Capital in February, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday. The police said they summoned Khalid to verify “some important points”.
Clashes had broken out between supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act and those opposing it in North East Delhi in February, killing 53 people and injuring hundreds. The violence was the worst Delhi saw since the anti-Sikh violence of 1984.
Khalid has already been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for allegedly instigating the violence by allegedly making provocative speeches. Jamia Millia Islamia students Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar were also booked under the stringent law. Zargar was granted bail in June.
A senior police officer told The Indian Express that they had served a notice to Khalid on Tuesday for questioning. “On Wednesday morning, at around 11.30, he came along with his two-three family members at Sunlight Colony office and joined the investigation,” the officer added. “We are questioning him and trying to verify some important points.”
Last month, Khalid was summoned by the Special Cell, which questioned him for three hours and seized his phone for examination. But in the absence of any evidence that directly links Khalid to any act of violence, the police have not been able to take him into custody so far.
Khalid’s name appeared in the chargesheet submitted by the police against suspended Aam Aadmi Party councillor Tahir Hussain. The chargesheet stated that on January 8, Hussain met Khalid and United Against Hate co-founder Khalid Saifi at Shaheen Bagh during an protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act, where “Umar Khalid told him to be prepared for something big/riots at the time of the visit of US President [Donald Trump]”.
The former JNU student at the time had refuted the allegations against him and said he was being falsely implicated. “It is an upside down world that we are living in, in which these organisations and individuals that have worked for communal harmony are being implicated,” he had said.
Khalid writes to Delhi Police commissioner
Khalid has also written to the Delhi Police Commissioner SN Shrivastava alleging that the Special Cell investigators were putting pressure on his acquaintances to implicate him in the case.
In a four-page letter, dated September 1, Khalid said an acquaintance met him on August 29 and told him that the Special Cell officers drew a prepared statement, which claimed that Khalid had proposed a “chakka jaam in Delhi” at the “opportune moment”. The police asked the acquaintance to sign it, he added.
“A meeting took place on December 26, 2019 at Indian Social Institute Lodhi Road. Jamia Coordination Committee, JNU, DU students and members of UAH [United Against Hate] were present there,” Khalid quoted the police pre-drafted statement as saying. “I got to know that in different Muslim majority regions like Shaheen Bagh...protests have to be set up. And in these protests, women and children will be involved so that police are unable to take action. Umar Khalid said that at the opportune moment, we will organise a chakka jam in Delhi so that the Government is forced to withdraw this law [CAA].”
Khalid added that when the acquaintance said he had no knowledge of these claims, he was threatened with being implicated in the violence and arrested under the UAPA. Following this, the acquaintance agreed to sign the statement.
“They [officers] brought another form, which looked like an arrest memo with UAPA written over it,” Khalid wrote. “Showing him [the acquaintance] this form, they told him that he had to make a choice – he could either comply and go ahead with the pre-drafted statement without any deletions or he could sign the other form. He felt compelled to go ahead with the statement.”
Khalid also refuted the police’s claim that they have obtained a confession from Hussain, where he allegedly says that Saifi arranged a meeting between them at the PFI office at Shaheen Bagh on January 8. “This is absolutely false,” he added. “I have never met Hussain or been to the PFI office. When I was questioned by Cell on July 31, I was not even asked a single question about meeting Hussain.”