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(Photo credit: Umar Khalid Facebook)
Justice for All calls for the immediate release of an internationally renowned former student activist at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Umar Khalid. Khalid is the co-founder of the activist group, United Against Hate. He was very heavily involved in the protests against the Indian Citizen Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens.
India’s actions against protestors is just as bad as China’s and what is happening to dissidents in Belarus and Hong Kong. Hundreds have been put into prison. In this recent slew of arrests, 18 people have been detained so far under FIR 59 of 2020.
Khalid has been accused of masterminding the Delhi “riots” at meetings in January to coincide with a visit by President Donald Trump. He was arrested in a case registered under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). He is among several key activists who have been arrested under this law.
The use of counter-terrorism laws such as UAPA is particularly concerning. These cases have been filed against activists Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, members of the women students and alumni collective Pinjra Tod, former Congress municipal councillor Ishrat Jahan, Khalid Saifi of the organization United Against Hate, Jamia Millia Islamia student Safoora Zargar and most recently Umar Khalid.
According to Indian Express, Sections 13, 16, 17, and 18 of the UAPA have been added to Umar Khalid’s case.
The Act defines unlawful activity as any action — spoken or written words, signs, or visible representation — which is intended or supports any claim to bring about secession of any part of India or which incites anyone towards secession; disclaims, questions, disrupts or intends to disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India; and “which causes or is intended to cause disaffection against India”.
“The word “disaffection” mentioned once has not been defined in the law.”
“The United States has taken the right stand against the Chinese government in its crackdown on activists. It’s time that the United States realizes that the Indian givernment is doing the same thing. We need to stand with the activists, stand for democratic process, and condemn India’s brutal suppression of democratic dissent,” said Zahir Adil, Team Lead for Justice For All’s Save India From Fascism Project.
Khalid is also accused of making incendiary speeches.
The speech that authorities have cited in his arrest report was made to students at JNU in January 2020. In it Khalid said: “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.”
This is being interpreted as inciting violence. “Gandhi’s philosophy is alive in these activists, but is dead in India’s administrative and law-maintenance agencies,” said Adil.
The prosecution plans to present over a million pages of “evidence” on various people. Many of these are based on forced confessions, obtained through torture, a common and routine practice amongst many Indian agencies.
He has been cooperating with authorities and previously presented himself to authorities for interrogation. Umar Khalid is not a flight risk. Khalid was interrogated for 5 hours on July 31st, 2020 and for the entire day on September 13, 2020 and according to media reports the police have not found any incriminating evidence against him.
Umar Khalid has not yet made a confession.
“We fear that he will be tortured in detention. We urge international action to protect this emerging democratic leader and a strong Muslim voice,” stated Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, founder of Justice For All.
Justice For All stands with Umar Khalid. We need to tell the Indian government in a loud and clear voice that arresting members of Religious Minorities and voices of dissent is not in their interest. The State Department should talk to India and demand to stop arresting the victims of Delhi Riots as the perpetrators of the same riots. Amnesty International has said in their report that members of Delhi police were responsible for Delhi Pogrom. It is these police personnel who should be arrested so others do not dare do the same in future.
It has been widely documented that the riots were sparked by an incendiary speech made by Kapil Mishra, a leader from the ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), who threatened to use force to remove a group of peaceful Muslim protesters. Yet Kapil Sharma remains free.
The UAPA is an anti-terror law – aimed at “more effective prevention of certain unlawful activities of individuals and associations and for dealing with terrorist activities”. It was first promulgated in 1967 to target secessionist organizations, and is considered to be the predecessor of laws such as the (now repealed) Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) and Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).
Amendments from time to time have made the UAPA more stringent. Following the last amendment in 2019, an individual can be designated a terrorist; only organizations could be designated earlier. UAPA cases are tried by special courts.
The law has been used in cases other than those of conventional ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorist acts’.