In Custody, Umar Khalid Arrested Again in Khajuri Khas Violence Case

Charged under UAPA, the former JNU scholar has already spent 10 days in police custody, during which time he was scarcely interrogated, according to those close to him.

New Delhi: Umar Khalid, former JNU student and United Against Hate activist, who was arrested earlier this month under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in the course of the Delhi communal riots probe, has now been arrested again in another case related to violence in and around Khajuri Khas, a Muslim-dominated locality in the north-east region of Delhi.   

Khalid has been accused by the Delhi police of conspiring with activists, including eminent names, and students who participated in the anti-CAA protests, to incite communal violence.

Charged under UAPA, he has already spent 10 days in police custody in connection with the infamous FIR 59/2020, in which police are investigating the possibility of a conspiracy to unleash communal violence in the national capital.

According to his friend, Banojyotsna Lahiri, he has hardly been interrogated during this period.

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On Thursday, he was arrested in a separate case (against FIR no. 101 P.S. Khajuri Khas) under various sections related to rioting, possession of arms, damage to public property, mischief, criminal conspiracy, and trespassing, of the Indian Penal Code. United Against Hate activist Khalid Saifi and former Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan were earlier arrested in the same case. Both of them have been in judicial custody since March. 

“He was interrogated once before on September 3, 2020, by the crime branch in this very case for almost the entire day. He cooperated and left only when the police had finished questioning him. His interrogation was from about 11.30 am to 5.30 pm,” Khaild’s friend Lahiri said.

“The FIR was registered on February 25. It is clear that the police did not find the need to arrest or even interrogate him till September,” she said. 

Harsh Mander and other activists wear masks with Umar Khalid’s face on them at a protest against his arrest in New Delhi. Photo: Ismat Ara

She added that the police arrested him in the said case just hours before his “legal mulaqat.” When Khalid insisted that his legal meeting was due in a bit and even named his lawyers, police did not allow him to inform his counsel about his arrest. He has now been sent to police custody for three days in the Khajuri Khas case. 

“His remand hearing was done hurriedly with the aim to deny him access to counsel. His family, friends and lawyers then presented with a fait accompli,” Lahiri said. 

The Khajuri Khas case primarily deals with the alleged role of former Aam Aadmi Party councillor Tahir Hussain in the riots. However, Khalid too has been mentioned multiple times in the case’s charge sheet.

For instance, the charge sheet mentions a January 8 meeting in which Husain, Khalid and Khalid Saifi had allegedly met to plan the riots that broke out in the national capital between February 23 and 25.

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The Delhi police probe has come under severe criticism from opposition political parties and civil society alike for allegedly framing multiple critics of the Narendra Modi government with the help of false charges.

Many have alleged that the Delhi police investigations bear strong similarities to the manner in which Bhima Koregaon case is being handled by the National Investigation Agency. In both the cases, civil liberties activists have said that the probes have become a “witch hunt” of those who have been questioning rightwing Hindutva politics and policies. 

Most cases the Delhi police have registered have intended to investigate the role of anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protesters who had been staging peaceful sit-ins in various parts of the city for over two months.

At the same time, the police have given clean chit to BJP leaders like Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma who openly delivered inciting speeches against anti-CAA activists. A majority of those killed and affected in the riots are from the minority community.