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NAPM demands safety of Umar Khalid amidst climate of 'fear, terror, lies, hate'

Counterview Desk

The National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), India’s top civil society network, even as condemning the arrest of former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student and youth activist Dr Umar Khalid, has said that the Delhi police must immediately stop coercing ‘confessional’ statements to manufacture evidence and refrain from painting the democratic anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). 
In a statement signed* by top activists, NAPM said the Delhi Police is qualifying all protests as “conspiracy against the state”, even as demanding the repeal of the “draconian” Unlawful Activities (Protection) Act (UAPA), under which most activists have been arrested, insisting on freeing all anti-CAA protestors, and arrest of BJP leader Kapil Mishra and all others who who allegedly incited Delhi riots.

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The spate of repression and arbitrary arrests of anti-CAA activists and students continues in the capital, with yesterday’s late-night arrest of young social justice activist Dr. Umar Khalid, after 11 hours of intense ‘interrogation’. The Delhi Police has arrested him on the basis of manufactured evidence through coerced statements, falsely accusing him of being the ‘master mind’ behind the Delhi riots of February 2020. It is now learnt that the Court has remanded him to “10 days police custody” so that he can be further interrogated over data and documents running into “11 lakh pages”!
As firm believers in a democratic ethos, we are anguished and outraged at the relentless silencing of young and progressive voices by this regime, many of who happen to be Muslims, students, activists and academics. The speeches by all of them during the vibrant women-led anti-CAA mass protests are available for public scrutiny and by no stretch of argument can they be interpreted to be ‘inciting hate or violence’. Quite to the contrary, they all are promoting love, peace and constitutional values.
Notably, anticipating the impending arrest, Umar Khalid had written to the Delhi Police Commissioner on 1st Sep, with regard to the statements being extracted from witnesses in order to frame him under several charges including UAPA, sedition and conspiracy for murder. Following this, on September 4, four senior civil society members including Prof Apoorvanand (Delhi University), Harsh Mander (former IAS officer and peace activist), Yogendra Yadav (National President, Swaraj Abhiyan) and Kawalpreet Kaur (student activist, AISA), along with Umar Khalid addressed a press conference highlighting the “continuing attempt by the Delhi Police to falsely implicate” activists of the anti-CAA movement as the ‘masterminds of the February riots’.
Julio Ribeiro, retired Police Commissioner of Mumbai and DGP Gujarat and Punjab, wrote to the Delhi Police Commissioner in which he spoke out strongly against the clearly biased investigation and said: “The Delhi Police has taken action against peaceful protestors but deliberately failed to register cognizable offences against those who made hate speeches which triggered the riots in N.E. Delhi.”
Another 9 IPS officers from different states have written to the Police Commissioner regarding the flawed investigation into the Delhi riots and requested him to “reinvestigate all riot cases fairly and without any bias based on sound principles of criminal investigations to provide justice to the victims and their families and for upholding the rule of law”.
Despite these interventions and over 1,000 well-known citizens writing to the Delhi Police, the latter, clearly under instructions from the Union Home Ministry has gone ahead with another arrest on false grounds, while ignoring those who have publicly incited violence in Delhi. Most prominent among this is Kapil Mishra, a BJP leader caught on video inciting mobs to violently attack anti-CAA protestors, who is still roaming free.
Mishra has in fact has circulated a fresh video, equating the Delhi violence to the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack and calling for ‘death penalty to the activists’! We would like to remind the Delhi Police that compromising investigation to serve political dispensations is an act of gross unprofessionalism and an attack on the democratic institutions and values of this country, which they are supposed to uphold.
In the past six months, under the cover of lockdown, many young students and activists have been arrested under UAPA and most of them including Gulfisha Fatima (Student, Delhi University), Ishrat Jahan (Congress activist), Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal (Students and Feminist Activists of Pinjra Tod), Khalid Saifi (United Against Hate), Meeran Haider (President, RJD Youth Wing, Delhi), Asif Tanha (Jamia student), Sharjeel Imam (JNU scholar), Shifa-Ur-Rehman (President, Jamia Alumni Association) continue to languish in jail.
Kapil Mishra has circulated a fresh video, equating Delhi violence to 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, calling for death penalty to activists
Their bail applications in the UAPA matter has been repeatedly rejected and some of them have reportedly faced severe torture in custody. All of them have been falsely charged with being part of a ‘conspiracy’ to incite the Delhi riots’.
The Delhi police has now issued summons to film makers Rahul Roy and Saba Dewan who appeared for investigation today. A large number of other activists and students in the capital have been questioned in the past few months, phones of many of them seized and all of them put under heavy surveillance.
Sitaram Yechury, Jayati Ghosh, Yogendra Yadav
Others who are under the radar include Sitaram Yechury of CPM, Prof Yogendra Yadav, Prof Apoorvanand, Prof Jayati Ghosh, Adv Mahmood Pracha, Chandrasekhar Azad (Bhim Army), although the Delhi police issued a clarification that Yechury, Yadav and Ghosh have not been ‘arraigned as accused in the supplementary charge sheet’.
During these months, on multiple occasions the trial courts have observed that the media has been peddling false information and making selective leakages, leading to a biased trial by sections of the compromised fourth estate. It is high time we come together and stand up against this colossal injustice, contest the convolution of facts, where innocent people are being arrested on false charges, while those who incited the violence are being let scot-free.
We urge all the peace, justice-loving and democratic-minded citizens of our country to rise in rage against the toxic narrative being spun by this regime to quell all rightful questioning of its unjust policies and such blatant undermining of the rule of law.
Given the overall political context, no amount of ‘urging’ the powers-that-be is likely to make a difference, but we must prepare ourselves to fight this battle of narratives in the true spirit of Satyagraha, as stated powerfully by Dr. Umar Khalid himself, “We won’t respond to violence with violence. We won’t respond to hate with hate. If they spread hate, we will respond to it with love. If they thrash us with lathis, we keep holding the tricolour."
NAPM demands the immediate 
  • Release of Dr Umar Khalid and all the anti-CAA protestors who were part of a completely legitimate and peaceful protest like lakhs of other citizens across India.
  • Safety of Umar and all the anti-CAA activists in both police and judicial custody. 
  • Repeal of UAPA and the sedition law which have become instruments of violation of fundamental freedoms and civil liberties. 
  • Arrest of all right-wing political and other leaders including Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur, Pravesh Verma, Komal Sharma, Rambhakt Gopal, Ragini Tiwari etc. against who clear evidence of inciting hate and violence is available in the public domain. 
  • Repeal of CAA-NRC-NPR which are, per se, unconstitutional and violative of the principles of just and equal citizenship. 
As representatives of various people’s movements from across India, committed to constitutional values, we call upon the Delhi police and the Home Ministry to end this vicious hounding of peace-loving activists and instead hold the actual culprits of the violence in the capital from Delhi-February accountable and render full justice, compensation and rehabilitation to all families affected by the violence.
We are committed to a continued struggle against this climate of fear, terror, lies and hate.
---
*Click here for signatories 

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