Guns out

It seems that the gun jammed. Therefore, the question whether Umar Khalid, a former student of Jawaharlal Nehru University against whom the still unproven charge of sedition was brought in 2016, was about to be shot or was being merely threatened cannot be answered. There is another question. Since Mr Khalid slipped away from his assailant's grasp, will this be considered a hate crime? Already Meenakshi Lekhi, the Bharatiya Janata Party member of parliament, has suggested that the police must discover whether this was a "propaganda mechanism" or a "security threat". Propaganda for what? And whose security? Mr Khalid was about to join a meeting called by United Against Hate in the Constitution Club on Rafi Marg, close to Parliament House and next to houses of MPs and certain ministries. Naturally, it is heavily policed, with security strengthened close to Independence Day. Mr Khalid's attacker, though, knew exactly whom to go for. Ms Lekhi was probably secure.

  • Published 15.08.18
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It seems that the gun jammed. Therefore, the question whether Umar Khalid, a former student of Jawaharlal Nehru University against whom the still unproven charge of sedition was brought in 2016, was about to be shot or was being merely threatened cannot be answered. There is another question. Since Mr Khalid slipped away from his assailant's grasp, will this be considered a hate crime? Already Meenakshi Lekhi, the Bharatiya Janata Party member of parliament, has suggested that the police must discover whether this was a "propaganda mechanism" or a "security threat". Propaganda for what? And whose security? Mr Khalid was about to join a meeting called by United Against Hate in the Constitution Club on Rafi Marg, close to Parliament House and next to houses of MPs and certain ministries. Naturally, it is heavily policed, with security strengthened close to Independence Day. Mr Khalid's attacker, though, knew exactly whom to go for. Ms Lekhi was probably secure.

The incident is steeped in a number of ironies. The meeting to unite against hate and fear, peopled by victims and families of victims of hate crimes and negative propaganda - Mr Khalid has been repeatedly threatened, together with others, and also roughed up as an 'anti-national' - began with a show of the power of hatred. Recent threats had been reported to the police. Yet not only did the attacker manage to catch hold of Mr Khalid, but he could also run away in a high-security area. This argues a fearlessness on his part that comes with the confidence of doing something that the highest circles would approve of. A further irony is that the police and investigative agencies are arresting one suspect after another for the murders of Gauri Lankesh and three rationalists. The trails are multiple, as the latest arrest of Vaibhav Raut from Mumbai exemplifies, and they keep leading back to the same names, Sanatan Sanstha for example. The investigators discovered that this outfit was allegedly involved in the blasts in Malegaon and has developed strategic methods for targeted murders, as the investigation into Lankesh's murder showed. The Sanstha has not been shut down. Besides, the police do not frighten the purveyors of hatred; they seem to flourish in the present atmosphere. Mr Khalid's attacker has given India's Independence Day the correct colour of the moment.

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