Activist Umar Khalid’s father, Sayed Qasim Rasool Ilyas, on Monday accused the Delhi police of trying to mute the voices of dissent against the government and weaving a false story a day after his son was arrested under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
The Delhi police’s special cell on Sunday arrested Khalid, 33, for his alleged role in the conspiracy behind the February riots in the national capital.
Ilyas said Khalid is being targeted for participating in the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
“This is nothing but an attempt to corner the activists and silence the voices of those who dissent against the government. The Delhi police have been trying to weave a false story by naming few people who participated in the anti-CAA-NRC protests, including Umar, as the ‘masterminds’ behind the north-east [Delhi] violence. However, everyone knows who was actually behind the riots.”
The CAA’s passage in December to fast-track the citizenship process for non-Muslims, who have entered India from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh before December 31, 2014, triggered protests across the country. Opponents of the law insist it is discriminatory and unconstitutional as it leaves out the Muslims and links faith to citizenship in a secular country. They say it could result in the expulsion or detentions of the Muslims unable to provide the documentation if the law is seen in the context of a proposed pan-India NRC. A process carried out in Assam to detect undocumented immigrants led to the exclusion of around two million people from the NRC in 2018.
Illyas alleged the Delhi police were using the same “tactic” as used in the Bhima Koregaon case in which intellectuals and activists have been accused of conspiring with Maoists to foment violence near Pune two years ago. He added stringent provisions of UAPA have been invoked in the case to ensure that the arrested persons stay in judicial custody for a longer duration.
“The Delhi police are replicating what has been happening in the Bhima Koregaon incident investigation for the last two years. They have been arresting activists without any concrete evidence and invoking UAPA against them. The Delhi police are doing the same in this case. Every time they questioned Umar, they told him that they do not have concrete evidence against him but still, they have arrested him,” he said.
In at least four charge sheets related to the riots, police have said Khalid met suspended and jailed Aam Aadmi Party’s councillor Tahir Hussain and activist Khalid Saifi on January 8 at the Shaheen Bagh sit-in protest site against the CAA-NRC to allegedly plan the riots. He has been interrogated twice in the last two months for his alleged role.
Illyas accused the police of carrying out a “witch-hunt”. “It is the clear message from the Delhi police that no one will be spared if they raise a voice against the CAA and NRC. It is just an attempt to curtail any possibility of protests against this Act in the future… They are recording false statements against certain people.”
At a virtual press conference on September 4, Khalid said the police have been following two kinds of laws in Delhi — one is for the supporters of the ruling party and another is for the people against whom evidence is being manufactured.
Ilyas said the family will fight for justice. “They [police] have been trying to seek his custody. We will fight against it. But the family is not afraid. We are used to this witch-hunt now.”
Hussain, Jamia student Meeran Haider, Jamia Coordination Committee’s Safoora Zargar, and Pinjra Tod activists Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita have also been arrested under UAPA on charges of allegedly planning and executing the north-east Delhi riots.