Academics, activists and lawyers have condemned the arrest of Jawaharlal Nehru University alumnus Umar Khalid under a draconian law for his alleged role in the northeast Delhi riots, describing it as a witch-hunt against one of the bravest young voices who spoke for constitutional values.
Khalid was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) by the special cell of the Delhi police after 11 hours of interrogation late on Sunday night.
Delhi Police on Monday sought a 10-day custody of Khalid, saying he needed to be confronted with huge amount of data.
Khalid was questioned by the Delhi Police Crime Branch for a couple of hours on September 2 in connection with the riots.
He was earlier booked under the stringent UAPA in another case related to the riots. He was also quizzed by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police earlier regarding an alleged conspiracy behind the riots.
His mobile phone was also seized by the police.
As citizens deeply committed to constitutional values, we condemn the arrest of Umar Khalid who has been subjected to a malicious investigation targeting peaceful anti-CAA protestors,” the statement by the group of academics, lawyers and rights activists said, The Wire reported.
With deep anguish we have no doubt in saying that this investigation is not about the violence in February 2020 in the national capital, but on the completely peaceful and democratic protests across the country against the unconstitutional CAA,” the statement said.
It described Khalid as “one of the hundreds of voices that spoke up in favour of the Constitution across the country during these anti-CAA protests, always foregrounding the need for peaceful, non-violent and democratic means”.
The statement also noted that Khalid had emerged as a strong and powerful voice of young Indians in “favour of the Constitution and of democracy.”
Among those who signed the statement are Ravi Kiran Jain and V. Suresh of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties, lawyers Mihir Desai and N.D. Pancholi, academics Satish Deshpande, Mary John, Apoorvanand, Nandini Sundar and Shuddhabrata Sengupta, and rights activists Aakar Patel, Harsh Mander, Farah Naqvi and Biraj Patnaik.
Inter-community clashes had broken out in northeast Delhi on February 24 after violence between supporters of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and those against the legislation spiralled out of control, leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured. In their attempt to prevent violence, 108 police personnel received injuries and two died.
The Delhi Police on Sunday said it was investigating the role of all individuals who allegedly took part in the riots and were part of a larger conspiracy in organising violence in the northeast Delhi and inciting communal passion and hatred amongst communities, an official statement, reported by PTI, stated.
Delhi Police said they had registered 751 FIRs in connection with the riots that took place in the last week of February this year. As far as the investigation is concerned Delhi Police had carried it out meticulously in the most professional manner, officials said.
After collecting and collating all evidence, the investigation has been finalised in most of the important cases and the charge sheets have been submitted in the court for trial, the police also said, adding the riots also caused large-scale damage to both private and public properties.
So far, police have arrested 1,575 people in 751 cases. Over 250 chargesheets have been filed in the riots related cases in which 1,153 accused have been charge-sheeted.