Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India
In mid June after failing to meet the deadline, the special cell of Delhi police sought two more months to file the charge-sheet in to the cases against anti-CAA activists over Delhi riots. A month from now, the Police are likely to file a charge-sheet into the case against Khalid Saifi, a Delhi-based civil rights activist associated with United Against Hate (UAH), who has been in jail for the past four months.
But his wife, Nargis, is hopeful that the court will uphold the “truth” even as the police will file the charge-sheet with what she says are baseless allegations. “The police have no proof to back their lies.”
Almost a month has passed since Nargis last saw her husband face to face. That day he was brought to the police station at Sunlight Colony in New Delhi’s Okhla area for interrogation by the crime branch.
“He looked relaxed. There were no signs of worry. What should he be worried about? He is not a criminal, ” she asserts during her conversation with Clarion India. “God willing, everything will be better for us soon.”
As his husband remains incarcerated since late February when he was detained from a protest site in Delhi’s north-east, Nargis has had to face an arduous time at her home with children amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Allah is running my home. Otherwise, you know how tough these five months have been for us.” She adds that Khalid’s friends and colleagues at UAH have been very supportive during the covid-19-induced lockdown despite the police witch-hunt against activists.
Khalid used to be a full-time businessman before he waded into activism. He has been married to Nargis for 12 years now. She recalls that these years have been eventful. “I have never had to struggle for anything. I have a bank account but for the last 12 years, I have never gone there. My husband provided me whatever I needed.”
But these past few months have been tough for the family. She says she has to think twice before she spends even a single penny. She adds that Khalid’s incarceration has left the children devoid of the love of their father.
“They miss him a lot. No matter how much people support you but nothing can fulfill the love and affection that the father gives. People will come and spend an hour with you and go back to their homes.”
But Nargis’s biggest worry has been the health of her husband. He is a diabetic which makes him more vulnerable to the critical symptoms of the coronavirus disease. She says: “I am worried about his health. He is a diabetes patient and then there is this coronavirus.”
Since his arrest, Khalid has been pushed around by the police who first put him in a special cell and then he was taken to jail where he was quarantined and then shifted to a hospital ward. Then the crime branch took him in for interrogation. Later, before being taken to jail, he was again quarantined.
“They are making a drama out of his incarceration,” says Nargis, sounding angry. “They don’t even know who among the staff is infected. They have put my husband’s life in danger.”
There are also allegations that after Saifi was arrested the police torture him; “They beat his feet and legs leaving him injured,” alleged Nargis. “it took him three months to recover.” A video showing him in a wheelchair while his both legs are covered in bandage also went viral a few days after his arrest.
Khalid is one of the founding members of UAH, a civil society group set up to counter communal violence and work to bring justice to the victims of mob lynching.
Khalid, a devout Muslim, has been inclined to the ideas of social justice since childhood. Before launching UAH, he was associated with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). He left AAP after, according to Nargis, he was not able to do what he wanted to do —“to lend his voice to the people struggling for justice.”
UAH emerged as the platform for the families of men killed by communal lynch mobs to wage their tumultuous struggle for justice like Junaid Khan, Pehlu Khan, Ikhlaq, Tabraiz Ansari.
“It was Khalid and his colleagues at UAH who would raise the voice in the national capital whenever there would be an incident of mob lynching in any corner of the country,” recounts Nargis with pride.
She says she was against her husband devoting time to politics but the conversations at family dinners changed her. Khalid made her understand the importance of speaking up for others.
“If they don’t speak up today for those in need, then there would be no one to speak up for us when we are in trouble,” Nargis recalls Khalid telling her.
A day after the BJP government tabled the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) in the parliament, a group of activists assembled at Jantar Mantar, the famous protest spot in New Delhi, and held a demonstration against the Bill.
One of the most vocal among them was Khalid who set the copies of the Bill on fire, symbolizing the defiance against the majoritarian march of the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Speakers warned the government of countrywide protests if the Bill was passed. But the BJP was successful in turning the Bill into an Act. And it was followed by exactly what the activists had warned. These protests became the wellspring for a countrywide movement with Shaheen Bagh at its center.
The movement was being hailed for its democratic and pluralistic ethos. But two months later, the protests caught an evil eye. Communal riots broke out in parts of Delhi in the last week of February, leaving over 50 people dead, most of them Muslims. The riots were a huge set-back to the movement.
Khalid was arrested from Khajuri Khas when, according to eyewitnesses, he was trying to pacify the situation. But the police detained and charged him with ‘attempt to murder.’ The police alleged that he gave a country-made pistol to a minor, and named him in FIR 44/2020.
In mid-March, they also named him in FIR 59/2020—the case that alleges that the anti-CAA activists conspired to instigate the anti-Muslim riots. He is accused of having arranged meetings of activist Umar Khalid and AAP councillor Tahir Hussain who is also in jail over allegations of instigating violence during Delhi riots. Moreover, the police allege that Khalid received money from Islamic preacher Zakir Naik.
“Delhi police are implicating anti-CAA activists in false cases,” says Nargis. “My husband has all the documents to prove his citizenship but he came out and spoke up for the poor, the orphans, the migrant labourers, the displaced, the homeless people,” she said and appealed to the people to at least try to speak up for her husband who stood up for everyone.