India

200 academics, filmmakers and authors seek release of Umar Khalid held under UAPA

New Delhi: Demanding the Government of India (GoI) to free former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leader Umar Khalid arrested weeks ago under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in a case related to the “communal violence”, at least 200 educationists, filmmakers and authors, including Cornell West, Noam Chomsky, Amitav Ghosh, Salman Rushdie and Mira Nair have joined hands seeking Umar’s release.

Among signatories are journalist P Sainath, actor Ratna Pathak Shah, filmmaker Nakul Sawhney, author Arundhati Roy, and renowned scholars Judith Butler, Romila Thapar and Sheldon Pollock.

“We call on the Government of India to free Umar Khalid and all those falsely implicated and unjustly incarcerated for protesting against the CAA-NRC that denies equal citizenship rights and to ensure that the Delhi Police investigates the Delhi riots with impartiality under the oath they took as public servants bound by the Constitution of India,” the signatories said in a joint statement.

On Thursday, a Delhi court sent Umar Khalid to judicial custody till October 22. He was arrested on the night of September 13 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in a case related to the “communal violence” in northeast Delhi in February.

Besides this, the student leader has also been charged with “sedition and 18 other sections of the Indian Penal Code, including murder, attempt to murder, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and rioting. “

“What was Umar Khalid’s crime? That he used the passion of his commitment to his country, marshalled his education and his voice to join the movement for equal citizenship, against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA),” the statement issued soon after Khalid was sent for judicial custody, mentioned, voicing solidarity and outrage at his arrest.

The statement said that Khalid “used the passion of his commitment to his country, marshalled his education and his voice to join the movement for equal citizenship, against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)” which introduced religion as a criterion for citizenship and has “no place in a secular nation”.

The statement also attempts to put Khalid’s arrest in the perspective of what the signatories say has been a singularly partisan investigation.

“These people are not terrorists, and the police investigation into the Delhi riots is not an investigation. It is a pre-meditated witch-hunt,” the statement added.

As has been done by activists several times before, the signatories mention that BJP leader Kapil Mishra has not attracted “the merest police scrutiny,” even though he stood with the Deputy Commissioner of Police and in a speech that is considered to have triggered the violence, threatened that his supporters would “take matters into their own hands” if the CAA protesters were not removed.

“The youth of any nation is its future,” the statement says in the final paragraph, ending with the declaration that “seeking justice for them, is doing justice to our collective, democratic futures.”

 

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