Why #IStandwithUmar Khalid is Trending on Twitter

Social Commentary

Why #IStandwithUmar Khalid is Trending on Twitter

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Umar Khalid, the activist and former student of the much-maligned Jawaharlal Nehru University, was arrested by the Delhi Police late on Sunday night, 13 September. The reason provided for his arrest was his alleged role in organising the communal violence that broke out in Delhi this February, where 53 people died, many more were injured, and widespread property destruction was witnessed. The police claim that Khalid, along with arrested former councillor of Aam Aadmi Party, Tahir Hussain, organised riots in Delhi and incited protestors of the Citizenship Amendment Act to turn violent through his speeches. Khalid has been arrested under the strict Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

Khalid is supposed to be produced in court on Monday, September 14. The police have said they will be filing the chargesheet against him in the coming days. Khalid’s arrest matches the trend of the Delhi Police clamping down hard on the anti-CAA protestors, with many high-profile activists and organisers of the protests, which were largely peaceful barring the notable exception of Delhi, where pro-CAA forces also played a documented role. The Delhi Police’s investigation, which has led them to arrest only those whose voice dissented from the establishment’s has come under criticism, renewed after Khalid’s arrest.

The police’s decision to not pursue investigation of the pro-CAA voices that advocated violence against anti-CAA protestors has come under fire from those who spot a bias in their behaviour. The role of leaders who raised “goli maaro saalon ko” slogans and their violent followers who were photographed brandishing weapons have been left out of the Delhi Police’s investigation.

The charges against Khalid are serious ones, but the activist’s lawyer has dismissed them. At a press conference earlier this month, on 4 September, Khalid’s lawyer, Trideep Pais, said, “There is an attempt to rewrite history of the past six months in front of our eyes and give it an official stamp,” addressing the allegations against Khalid. Indeed, videos of the speeches Khalid gave during the anti-CAA protests show the speaker advocating unity and faith in the Constitution, rather than seditious ideas.

Now, based on the evidence gathered by Delhi Police, it is up to the courts to determine whether Khalid was a participant in a democracy, or a threat to it.