Pre-recorded Video Message of Arrested Civil Rights Activist Umar Khalid Released

A scene of riots in Delhi. Photo: Reuters
A scene of riots in Delhi. Photo: Reuters

Civil rights activist Umar Khalid urged people not to get scared by the oppressive government and raise voice against injustice.

By Rakesh Raman

A pre-recorded video of former student leader and civil rights activist Umar Khalid has been released today. “If you are watching this video, it means I have been arrested,” he said.

In his video message, Khalid says that Delhi Police is not holding a fair investigation into Delhi riots, as the police are not questioning the real rioters who instigated the crowd in the presence of police.

He added that the protesters who opposed the government’s policies particularly the discriminatory citizenship laws are being implicated in false cases. “Delhi Police does not have any evidence, but it has arrested many students and have been trying to arrest me also,” Khalid said.

He urged people not to get scared by the oppressive government and raise voice against injustice. Khalid also said that people should demand the release of those who are being arrested under false charges.

POLICE CUSTODY OF KHALID

The Delhi Police sought a 10-day custody of Khalid, who is facing a barrage of allegations which are believed to be fabricated to silence him. The police produced Khalid before the Karkardooma district court on Monday (September 14) via video conferencing.

The police had arrested him on Sunday under the draconian anti-terror law Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for his alleged role in the conspiracy behind the Delhi communal violence that took place in February.

According to a Hindustan Times report, in separate chargesheets related to the violence, the police said Khalid met suspended and jailed Aam Aadmi Party’s councilor Tahir Hussain and activist Khalid Saifi on January 8 at the Shaheen Bagh sit-in protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) to allegedly conspire the riots.

Khalid has been interrogated twice in the past two months for his alleged role in violence. The police have also linked Khalid’s speeches to the riots, although it is said that the evidence has not yet been produced in the court.

The chattering classes in India and abroad have been condemning the brutality of Delhi Police in dealing with the peaceful protesters and implicating them in false cases. However, the police force – which comes under India’s Home Minister Amit Shah – continues to work in an erratic manner.

Last week, Delhi Police had named CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav, and others in a supplementary chargesheet filed in connection with its probe into the Northeast Delhi riots that took place in February.

Citing “disclosure” statements to claim that the anti-CAA/NRC protests in Delhi were held to “malign” the image of the government, the Delhi Police has also named economist Jayati Ghosh, Delhi University professor and activist Apoorvanand, and documentary filmmaker Rahul Roy in the chargesheet.

WEAK DEFENCE OF ACTIVISTS

It appears that Delhi Police is trying to link the leaders of the anti-CAA protests with the pogrom in Delhi that caused enormous damage to the life and property of Muslims.

The activists named in the police chargesheets complain that the police are not investigating the conspiracy, but the police investigation itself is a conspiracy against the peaceful protesters and protest leaders.

However, these activists do not have a sound defence to protect themselves in the courts which are primarily influenced by the government’s tacit diktats.

“The arrest of Umar Khalid under the provisions of the draconian UAPA is condemnable,” CPI(M) said in a statement issued Monday.

The statement adds that Khalid’s arrest comes following the detention, under UAPA, of Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita (JNU), Ishrat Jahan, a former councilor of a political party, Jamia students Meeran Haider also an RJD youth leader, Asif Tanha, Safoora Zargar, Gulfisha Fatima, and Shifr-ul-Rehman.

Obviously, if all these activists failed to protect themselves in the courts, there is hardly any possibility for others to defend themselves even when they are innocent.

Yogendra Yadav, for example, has been parroting that the videos of his allegedly instigative speeches are available on his Facebook page from where police can know that he was promoting peace during the protests.

But it is not a sound argument because the police can say that videos may not have been made of the secret meetings that Yadav might have held to discuss the riots. In that case, the disclosure statements made by the accused should be enough to haul up Yadav.

If the police and PM Narendra Modi’s government – primarily the Home Ministry under Amit Shah – want to imprison these activists, the toothless courts won’t save them. It has been seen in a number of cases during the past few months when the courts refused to grant even bail to the activists.

On the other hand, the police and courts are not ready to take action against the BJP leaders who were openly making incendiary speeches and remarks that led to the violence in Delhi.

Last month, on August 26, a Delhi court had dismissed a petition filed by CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat seeking a First Information Report (FIR) filed against BJP minister Anurag Thakur and another BJP leader and MP Parvesh Verma. The petition was filed about the BJP leaders’ hate speeches over protests against the CAA in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh.

In a statement issued on August 27, Ms Karat said: “This is an unfair judicial process which has resulted in excusing those who make hate speeches even where there is prima facie evidence. The ruling is surprising and disappointing.”

According to an NDTV report, additional chief metropolitan magistrate Vishal Pahuja rejected the complaint saying the Central Government has to allow the FIR first under the law.

DELHI COMMUNAL VIOLENCE

Recently, an international human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) also released a report under the title: “Shoot the Traitors: Discrimination Against Muslims under India’s New Citizenship Policy.”

The report states that after the hateful speeches of BJP leaders, at least 52 people were killed in the three days of communal violence that broke out in India’s capital New Delhi.

The HRW report further explains that BJP leaders – who mostly act as mobsters – derided the protesters or more dangerously called them anti-national and pro-Pakistan.

Addressing a mob of BJP goons, a minister in PM Modi’s government described the protesters as “Pakistani hooligans,” while others led a chant to “shoot the traitors,” inciting violence.

The violence in Delhi, according to the report, began soon after a local BJP politician Kapil Mishra, who had earlier led a large demonstration calling to “shoot” the protesters, posted a video in which he gave an ultimatum to the police, threatening to take the matter into his own hands if the police did not clear the roads of protesters in three days.

Over 200 were injured, properties destroyed, and communities displaced in targeted attacks allegedly carried out by Hindu mobs. While a policeman and some Hindus were also killed, the majority of victims were Muslim, the report describes.

COMPLICIT POLICE AND WEAK COURTS

Usually, the police and courts do not take action against the BJP government and BJP leaders. The police officers have seen the horrific case of Gujarat riots whistleblower Sanjiv Bhatt who tried to raise his voice against Modi (who was then the chief minister of Gujarat) in the case related to Gujarat pogrom of 2002 in which over 2,000 people – mostly Muslims – were murdered.

Bhatt has been implicated in a custodial death case of 1990 and serving life imprisonment under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Shweta Sanjiv Bhatt, the wife of Sanjiv Bhatt, maintains that it is a fabricated case in which his husband has been falsely implicated.

Similarly, most judges must be scared after witnessing the fate of judge Loya (Brijgopal Harikishan Loya) who had died in mysterious circumstances. In this case, BJP leader Amit Shah – who is now the Home Minister of India – was the prime accused.

Although the demands for fair investigation into Delhi riots are increasing, no investigation or investigating officer can dare to point the finger at Amit Shah who controls Delhi Police. Judges and investigating officers know if judge Loya can die in an inexplicable manner, they also can be made to face the same fate.

Earlier it had happened in Vyapam scam in which, like Amit Shah, another BJP leader and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was an accused. As the investigation into the Vyapam case was progressing, the witnesses and others familiar with the case started disappearing.

A Special Task Force (STF) submitted a list to high court in 2015 informing that 23 people died “unnatural death.” Some media reports claimed that more than 40 people associated with the Vyapam scam had died under mysterious circumstances.

Obviously, most witnesses, police officers, and judges will not dare to go against the will of Modi and his associate – Home Minister Amit Shah. Now, many observers believe that India is fast becoming a dictatorial state like China, North Korea, and Russia where the government critics are executed under false charges or killed secretly by poisoning or shooting them.

Therefore, the activists in India who oppose Modi and Shah must get ready to face such eventualities.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society.

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Rakesh Raman