NEW DELHI — Several activists, family members, political leaders and journalists have demanded the release of student leader and activist Umar Khalid as he completes one thousand days behind bars.
At a public meeting at the Press Club here on Friday, many prominent personalities described Khalid’s incarceration as “1000 days of injustice”. The meeting was titled “Democracy, Dissent & Censorship”.
Ravish Kumar, a prominent journalist and former NDTV anchor, said a bright student, who is a Ph.D. holder, has been declared anti-national by the State with the help of godi media (servile media). Though Khalid has been languishing in jail for a thousand days, Kumar said, the huge number of participants at the meeting shows that he has not been forgotten.
Kumar said he was disappointed and dismayed that Khalid did not get bail during all this period, even though many former judges and the Supreme Court have laid great emphasis on the personal liberty of an accused. “Sometimes, the conscience of the judiciary would wake up, it would seem that the hand of the law is not just too large but also red-handed. Then, they would understand what is happening,” he said.
“I have seen Umar Khalid laughing through the pictures and videos that came out of the jail. But we become upset after seeing those pictures,” he said.
Qasim Rasool Ilyas, father of Khalid and a prominent Muslim leader, said that he was unable to understand where would common people go if courts deny them justice. “When people are disappointed with politicians, the parliament, and democracy, where would they go,” he asked.
Ilyas pointed out that several accused persons facing similar charges as Khalid were granted bail. It defies logic, he said, that the court which granted bail to others facing the same charges rejected Khalid’s bail plea.
He said that Khalid always dreamt of an India wherein “everyone has a house to live, food to eat, clothes to wear, have an opportunity to earn livelihood and get justice.”
But, he said, Khalid and other youths having the same dream are being put behind bars. “When the country gained independence, millions of people sacrificed their lives. They were put behind bars. The country’s democratic fabric is under attack. It needs to be protected at all costs and in doing so we should make similar sacrifices as was done during the freedom struggle,” he said.
Rashtriya Janata Dal leader and Rajya Sabha MP, Manoj Kumar Jha, said the battle for the incarcerated activists should be fought by the people. It cannot be fought by political parties as they have to contest elections, he said. He also urged people to stand up for all political prisoners, not just Umar Khalid.
Prabhat Patnaik, emeritus professor at the Jawahar Lal Nehru, Supreme Court advocate Sharukh Alam and activist Gurmohar Kaur also addressed the meeting.
Umar Khalid was arrested on 14 September 2020, for his alleged role in the Delhi riots. He was booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA and relative provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for being the mastermind of the riots. Notably, 53 people lost their lives, and 700 were injured during the violence. The majority of the casualties were from the Muslim community.
In October last year, the Delhi High Court dismissed Khalid’s bail plea. It said that prima facie, the anti-CAA and NRC protests that resulted in the riots, were orchestrated at various meetings he had attended. Though a Delhi court acquitted him and one other accused in one of the cases linked to the Delhi riots, Umar Khalid remained in jail for his connection in other cases.