Umar Khalid, friends show up in JNU, police wait outside campus

Police had last week named five students, including Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya and Ashutosh, alleging they were part of an event against hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru during which anti-national slogans were allegedly raised.

Written by Aranya Shankar , Kedar Nagarajan | New Delhi | Updated: February 22, 2016 3:45 pm
khalid-jnu759 Umar Khalid at JNU on Sunday night (Source: Express Photo)

More than ten days after the protest in JNU against Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru’s hanging, at least six university students facing charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy for their alleged role in organising the event surfaced on the campus late on Sunday night.

Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya, Ashutosh Kumar, Anant Prakash Narayan, Riyazul Haq and Rama Naga addressed a small gathering of students outside the administration block.

The February 9 event had triggered protests in Delhi and led to the arrest of JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar on charges of sedition. On Friday, police had issued Look Out Circulars against Khalid, Haq and Bhattacharya to prevent them from leaving the country.

Police arrived at JNU soon after they received information about the students’ presence, but did not enter the campus. “We cannot enter the campus to make arrests without permission from the JNU administration. We will wait outside the campus if they want to surrender,” said a senior police officer.

The students said they had not appeared in public earlier, fearing “mob violence”. “We saw what was happening in the media and social media, and feared attacks,” said Naga.

While Khalid and Bhattacharya are former members of the Democratic Students’ Union (DSU), Naga is the general secretary of JNUSU, Kumar a former president and Narayan a former vice-president.

“My name is Umar Khalid and I’m not a terrorist. If Jaish-e-Mohammed gets to know that I was linked to their organisation, they’ll start protesting outside the RSS office,” Khalid told the gathering.

“I have never projected myself as a Muslim while doing politics on campus. I always tried to see exploitation of Muslims along with the exploitation faced by Dalits, tribals and others,” said Khalid.

“I missed you guys a lot. My only contact with the outside world was electronic media, which was painting a dystopic picture. I want to thank you for all the solidarity. You people came to show solidarity. This attack was not because of slogans, it was because the government needed an excuse. We saw the doctored videos,” said Khalid.

JNUSU vice president Shehla Rashid said they would be maintaining a night vigil and record all related events on campus. Till 11.50 pm, Umar and Bhattacharya raised slogans in support of Kanhaiya Kumar who is in judicial custody.

“Kanhaiya tum sangharsh karo. Hum tumhare saath hain (Keep fighting Kanhaiya, we are with you),” Khalid said to resounding cheers.

Khalid’s family, meanwhile, said they had heard from him for the first time in nearly 10 days on Sunday.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Khalid’s father Dr S Q R Ilyas said, “I got a call from one of his friends at around 11 pm to say they are all back on campus. They have all returned, and I am thankful for that. They are all safe.”

Asked if Khalid would be returning home, Dr Iylas said, “I would like him to. But I don’t know what they will decide. I hope he comes home, we have all been worried,” he said.

(With inputs from Mahender Singh Manral)