If Umar Khalid Were Able to Execute Riots, He Would Have Been a Chief Minister: Manoj Jha

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Prominent citizens including, among others, well-known journalists, lawyers, women and human rights activists and former chairman of Delhi Minorities Commission attended the meet to mark one year of incarceration of Umar Khalid atthe Press Club of India, New Delhi.

The speakers also demanded repeal of laws like UAPA saying that they are being abused to target government critics and to settle political scores.

Zafar Aafaq and Ahmad Kasim  | Clarion India

NEW DELHI — A group of concerned citizens held a public meet at the Press Club of India here on Monday to mark one year of incarceration of anti-CAA activist Umar Khalid who is in jail under the controversial Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in Delhi riots conspiracy case.

The speakers included politician from Rashtriya Janata Dal Prof Manoj Jha, former Delhi Minorities Commission Chairman Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, women rights activist Dr Syeda Hameed, prominent human rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan, farmer leader Jasbir Kaur and senior journalists Sidharath Vardarajan and Bharat Bhushan.

The session was moderated by civil rights activist Farah Naqvi who began the event by asking whether citizens have the right to oppose the government or the communalisation of society.

She questioned the way in which the criminal justice system is executed in the country, as she alleged that the investigating agencies are communally prejudiced against Muslims.

Naqvi said that Khalid was arrested because he was articulate and travelled through the length and breadth of the country during the anti-CAA protests movement.

The charge against the former JNU student leader is that he allegedly hatched a conspiracy that led to violence in parts of Delhi in late February 2020 to defame the Modi government.

The police have presented a part of his speech that Khalid delivered in Amravati as evidence to claim that the violence was pre-planned.

However, the speakers questioned the claim arguing that the police relied on a video clip from news channel Republic TV which had sourced it from BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya.

“It is a 21 minute speech but police used a doctored video as evidence against him,” said Naqvi.

Vardarajan, the founding Editor of news outlet The Wire, said that the police investigation of the case is a story of massive cover up to “persecute the innocent while the actual guilty are running scott-free.”

He said that the anti-CAA movement was peaceful in which people turned to the constitution for showing the way in absence of a direction from a political party.

The senior journalist said the cases against Umar Khalid and other anti-CAA activists are “bogus” as he alleged that police are not willing to investigate or accept the guilty.

Dr Islam said that as chairman of Delhi Minorities Commission, he wrote multiple letters and sent evidence to the police against BJP leaders and Hindutva activists for their role in the violence but did not get any response. “Instead the Delhi police went to the court to challenge the  report of the riots put out by the commission.”

He demanded a high level judicial inquiry into the riots to find the truth.

Dr Islam  informed that apart from activist Khalid the police has arrested around 1800 locals including Hindu and Muslims from north East Delhi in riots cases “many of whom are innocent”.

He urged the speakers to ensure that focus is also put on those who are “being sidelined for whatever reasons”. He named Ishrat Jahan, Congress councillor and Tahir Husain, former AAP councillor as he said that they should also be made part of discourse.

Prof Manoj Jha termed the jailed activists as heroes who are being punished for standing up against the tyranny of the government.

“Umar Khalid is the brightest, uncontaminated mind from the JNU,” Jha said. “If he were able to execute riots, he would have been a chief minister then.”

Jha said that the difference between nation, state and government are being blurred and anyone who criticises the policies of the government are being branded as anti-national.

Explaining the significance of  public uprisings, he said that at the peak of Shaheen Bagh agitation some political parties were forced to rethink their stance on the controversial citizenship law.

Dr Hameed hailed the women of Shaheen Bagh for launching a movement against the controversial citizenship law. She termed Shaheen Bagh a “fountainhead of Inquilaab”.

Advocate Bhushan demanded police accountability for implicating activists in the cases as he pitched for implementation of police reform ordered by the Supreme Court 15 years ago.

“Police officers and their political masters should be answerable for hatching a conspiracy of targeting the innocent people in riots cases,” Bhushan asserted.

Journalist Bhushan explained the reasons behind the incarceration of Khalid as he said that the “state is becoming increasingly authoritarian and its authoritarianism is based on communalism.”

The arrest of Khalid, Bhushan said, is based on Islamophobia as he constantly spoke for the rights of Muslims of the country. He also said that the regime is afraid of the young emerging leaders like Khalid who are secular minded and non-conformists and that’s why they are being targeted.

Farmer leader Jasbir Kaur called for unity among groups who are protesting against the present regime to save  the country. She slammed the government for its privatisation policy.

Kaur said that before bringing in new policies the Modi government amended the UAPA to make it more stringent in order to lay ground for scuttling any public opposition to its policies.

The speakers also demanded repeal of laws like UAPA saying that they are being abused to target government critics and to settle political scores.

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