Delhi Riots: ‘Vague’ FIR Names Umar Khalid, Police Arrests Jamia Student

Haider’s lawyer said that the FIR was vague and that his client would be acquitted eventually.

New Delhi: Former Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Umar Khalid has been named as the prime accused in a case in which Jamia student Meeran Haider was recently arrested. Haider, a research scholar at Jamia Millia Islamia and a youth leader of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) was arrested by the special cell of Delhi Police in connection with his alleged involvement in violence in North East Delhi in February 2020.

Haider was called by the police for investigation on Wednesday and later taken into custody. On Thursday, he was produced before the metropolitan magistrate Prabhjeet Kaur at her residence. Thereafter, the judge sent Haider to police custody for four days.

As per Haider’s lawyer, he has been charged under several sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including 124 A (sedition), 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, etc.) and 120 B cCriminal conspiracy), etc. According to the police notice dated March 31, he was called to join the investigation in the case pertaining to FIR no. 59/2020. Notably, Haider’s name is not in the FIR. The FIR names two persons – former JNU student Umar Khalid and Danish, a resident of Bhajanpura, North East Delhi.

In the FIR, it is alleged that the two, along with their friends hatched the conspiracy of the riot which took place in Delhi on February 23, 24 and 25. The police have alleged that, as part of the duo’s conspiracy, women and children were made to protest on the road. The FIR specifically mentions that Khalid made hate speeches and disseminated propaganda in two places to destabilise the visit of US President Donald Trump. The FIR was registered on March 6, based on the information provided by Arvind Kumar of the Crime Branch.

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Commenting on the case, Haider’s lawyer Sarim Naved said, there was hardly any case against his client and the matter will not sustain in the due process. “It is a wonderfully vague FIR,” he told The Wire, adding that there are already different cases underway about the violence that occurred in North East Delhi.

According to Naved, the FIR had little substance and his client would be acquitted eventually. Naved further claimed that the case was based solely on police theory, which had absolutely no basis. “A case has to be based on some information as mere conjecture is not enough,” he added.

A crane carries charred remains of vehicles set ablaze by rioters in violence-affected Shiv Vihar Tiraha area of northeast Delhi, March 3, 2020. Photo: PTI/Manvender Vashist

It is pertinent to note here that Haider was very active during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) agitation and was also seen helping people stranded during the ongoing national lockdown. On March 27, he arranged ration for 100 labourers, who were stranded in Delhi’s Karam Pura area. On March 29 as well, with the help of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, he arranged for a week’s ration for stranded labourers from Bihar, who did not have any ration cards or any other card.

Speaking to The Wire, RJD Rajya Sabha MP and Delhi University professor Manoj Jha, who met Haider during his hearing on Thursday said that Haider was actively working towards helping migrant labourers (especially from Bihar) stranded in Delhi.

“To be honest, with his arrest I have virtually lost my right arm as through him I was able to help a large number of people stuck in East Delhi,” Jha told The Wire. He also questioned the timing of Haider’s arrest. “What was the urgency of arresting him,” asked Jha, adding, “especially when he was not running away from any investigation and totally cooperating with the police.”

Jha alleged that Haider had been arrested to send a message that no voice of dissent would be tolerated, no matter how genuine it was. He also suggested that Haider’s religious identity played a role in his arrest. “The kind of crimes he has been accused of are totally ridiculous,” asserted Jha and added, “I have known Meeran for long and stand by him. He should be released immediately as it would be a great help for those stuck in the lockdown,” the Rajya Sabha MP said.

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Meanwhile, on Friday, Jha’s political opponent and deputy chief minister of Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi tweeted about Haider’s arrest.

The Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC), a group comprising of students and alumni from the university, of which Haider is also part of, condemned the arrest and demanded his immediate release. “It is shameful that even in circumstances like these, Muslim voices are being targeted and witch-hunted by the state. JCC demands that he must be immediately released as all charges against him are baseless,” read the statement released by the JCC.

Several Muslim activists have been arrested by Delhi Police in the last few weeks in connection with the violence in North Delhi, which killed at least 53 people and injured close to 200. Several people have recently received notices, similar to the one that Haider got, from the police.