Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Chomsky others demand release of Umar Khalid
New Delhi, Sep 25: Over 200 national and international scholars, academicians and artists have issued a statement seeking the release of former JNU student, Umar Khalid, who is under arrest for his alleged role in the northeast Delhi riots.
The signatories include, linguist Noam Chomsky, authors Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh, Arundhati Roy, Ramachandra Guha and Rajmohan Gandhi, filmmakers Mira Nair and Anand Patwardhan, historians Romila Thapar, Ramchandra Guha, and Irfan Habib, and activists Medha Patkar and Aruna Roy. They have termed the investigation by the Delhi Police as a premeditated witch hunt.
They said that Khalid has been falsely implicated and must be freed. The Delhi Police should probe the case impartially. "We stand in solidarity and outrage, with the brave young scholar and activist Umar Khalid, arrested in New Delhi on Sept 14, 2020, under fabricated charges of engineering the Delhi riots in February 2020. He is charged with sedition, conspiracy to murder, and under sections of India's stringent anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
This process of criminalising all dissent has been underway for a few years and even under a Covid-19 pandemic, relentless political arrests under fabricated charges are punishing the innocent long before they are brought to trial, a statement read.
"Currently, 19 of the 21 people falsely accused under terror laws, are Muslim. If we allow their identity to become their crime, India shall stand shamed in the global community of secular nations. These people are not terrorists, and the police investigation into the Delhi riots is not an investigation. It is a premeditated witch-hunt," the statement also read.
On Thursday, Khalid arrested under the stringent anti-terror law, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, in a case related to the communal violence in northeast Delhi in February, was sent to judicial custody till October 22.
Khalid was present before Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat through video conferencing at the end of his police custody. Khalid was arrested on September 13 in the case. Police did not seeks his further custody.
In the FIR, police has claimed that the communal violence was a "premeditated conspiracy" which was allegedly hatched by Khalid and two others.
He has also been booked for the offences of sedition, murder, attempt to murder, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and rioting.
Khalid had allegedly given provocative speeches at two different places and appealed to the citizens to come out on streets and block the roads during the visit of US President Donald Trump to spread propaganda at international level about how minorities in India are being tortured, the FIR alleged.
In this conspiracy, firearms, petrol bombs, acid bottles and stones were collected at numerous homes, FIR claimed.
Co-accused Danish was allegedly given the responsibility to gather people from two different places to take part in the riots, police alleged. Women and children were made to block the roads under the Jafrabad metro station on February 23 to create tension amidst the neighborhood people, the FIR said.
Communal clashes had broken out in northeast Delhi on February 24 after violence between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.