In dramatic late-night scenes, Umar Khalid, the Jawaharlal Nehru University student who had been untraceable after being accused of sedition, returned to the campus late on Sunday evening.
Khalid turned up right at JNU's administration block, where hundreds of students began to gather, and gave a speech insisting that he would stand his ground and that the sedition charges against him and others were only the beginning of a larger war against anyone who thought independently.
Even though Delhi Police had been looking for him, it still needed the permission of the Vice-Chancellor to come into campus and actually arrest the 28-year-old – permission that was denied on Sunday night. This left thousands of students at 'admin block' where student leaders like Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya – who allegedly organised the event – and JNUSU Vice President Shehla Rashid addressed the gathering, resolving to fight the charge of sedition together.
Khalid's speech came while many students were still pouring in after WhatsApp messages calling for a night-long vigil in the light of anticipated police action were circulated across the capital.
Before he began his speech, Khalid was cheered with slogans of "We salute you, comrade," from the gathering, to which he responded by cheekily remarking that his name might be Umar Khalid but he is "not a terrorist."
He thanked students, activists as well as the JNU faculty for coming out on the streets in support. In his speech, he also spoke of allegations levelled against him in sections of the media, which he claimed were unsubstantiated.
"People have told me things about me in the last week that I never myself knew," he said. "[They said] I have been to Pakistan twice even when I have no passport. They think I was planning to hold this event in 17-18 universities when I don't have much of an influence even inside JNU."
He ended his speech by speaking of Hyderabad University Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula and claimed that the issue wouldn't be "silenced" because of the recent attack at JNU.