A former student leader in India has been arrested in February for his alleged role in the deadly violence in the capital New Delhi, a move activists have dubbed “a witch-hunting practice”.
Omar Khalid, 33, was arrested on Sunday night under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), killing at least 53 people, most of whom were Muslims, in the violence.
Legal experts have questioned UAPA’s police application to students and activists, as the law reduces the scope of bail without trial.
Several other students and activists have been arrested under the UAPA behind a nationwide peaceful protest against the controversial citizenship law, which was passed last December.
Instead of conducting a fair investigation into the Delhi riots, the police turned it into a witch-hunt against anti-CAA protesters.
Nadeem Khan from United Against Hate.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which has been dubbed “fundamentally discriminatory” by the United Nations, fast-tracks citizenship for religious minorities from three neighboring countries, but excludes Muslims.
Civil society group United Against Hate (UAH), of which Khalid is a member, said the former Jawaharlal Nehru University The student has been “implicated”.
Nadeem said, ‘Omar Khalid has been blamed by the Delhi Police as a’ mastermind ‘in the Delhi riots. Instead of conducting a fair investigation into the Delhi riots, the police has turned it into a witch-hunt against anti-CAAA protesters. Khan from UAH reported to Al Jazeera.
“The police first misrepresented Khalid’s speeches and then tried to fabricate witnesses. This is a clear attempt to intimidate democratic voices of discontent in silence.”
‘Frame peaceful activists’
The Delhi Police made the arrest a day after registering a case against prominent activists and academics, accusing them of “inciting and mobilizing” CAA protesters.
So far, the police have filed more than 700 First Information Reports (FIRs) in connection with the riots, but activists say supporters and leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who gave hate speeches were spared.
Rather than register an FIR against those who were actually responsible for the riots, the cases are trying to implicate Omar Khalid and some others.
Syed Qasim Rasul Ilyas, father of Khalid
The violence erupted in February after a pro-CAA mob attacked a peaceful protest site in northeast Delhi.
Prominent lawyer Prashant Bhushan tweeted, “This is a conspiracy by the police to cover up peaceful activists under the guise of investigation”.
A Delhi Police spokesperson declined to comment on the issue, but later shared a statement with Al Jazeera stating that Khalid would be produced in court on Monday.
|India’s police ‘complicity’ in anti-Muslim riots, accuses Amnesty|
Khalid’s father Syed Qasim Rasul Ilyas told Al Jazeera that his son was interrogated throughout the day on Sunday. He was later arrested at 11 am local time. It is common for police in India to question suspects in a case before a formal arrest.
In April, Khalid, who holds a PhD on tribal rights, was charged under UAPA in another case related to the worst violence in the capital since anti-Sikh violence in 1984.
Ilyas told Al Jazeera, “The first FIR, filed long ago, has made Omar Khalid the main accused. My son was charged with a number of charges including treason.”
“It is known to all those who initiated the riots, those who gave hate speeches, who were the main victims and who lost property and lives. Instead of filing an FIR against those responsible for the riots , Police are trying to implicate Omar Khalid. And some others. ”
Remember tomorrow @DelhiPolice Was trying to claim that it was not for accusing / arresting activists based on “disclosure statements”? Well, they were lying. @UmarKhalidJNU, A good young activist protecting India’s democracy has been arrested under UAPA, Treason etc.
– Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) 14 September 2020
Amnesty International India in its report published last month accused the Delhi Police of “complicity and prejudice” in the February violence.
But the police have defended their investigation into the deadly riots, for which they have arrested 1,575 people. “Over 250 charge sheets have been filed in riot related cases, with 1,153 accused (571 Hindus and 582 Muslims) having been given charge sheets,” Delhi Police said in a statement on Sunday.
Police said the charges against him were “motivated”.
With additional reporting by Bilal Kuchay