“If you are watching this video, it means I have been arrested,” said former JNU student Umar Khalid in a video which was recorded before his arrest under the UAPA on Sunday. The 2-minute-11-second video message was played at the Press Club of India Wednesday afternoon, on a laptop connected to a microphone, as civil rights activists held a press conference raising questions on the Delhi Police probe.
“Through this video, I want to send you all a message. The Delhi Police in its investigation is not catching the real perpetrators of the riots… They haven’t been questioned even once. On the other hand, those who are critical of the government, especially those protesting against CAA-NRC, are being implicated in false cases,” he said in the video.
Speakers at the press conference — senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, former Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed, All India Progressive Women’s Association general secretary Kavita Krishnan, Former Delhi University Teachers’ Association president Nandita Narain and Pamela Philipose, senior fellow at the Indian Council of Social Science Research — said the “Delhi Police has resorted to a sinister plan to brand, target, frame, and arrest” anti-CAA protesters.
Former JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, who was booked for alleged sedition alongside Khalid in 2016, was also supposed to attend the press conference, but didn’t show up because he was occupied in a meeting. He, however, posted a statement on Facebook in which he criticised the arrest of Khalid and Pinjra tod activists Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, and the naming of Sitaram Yechury, Yogendra Yadav, Jayati Ghosh and Rahul Roy in the supplementary chargesheet.
“… why have BJP leaders who openly instigated riots not been called for questioning and arrested? Questions being raised on the investigation in the Delhi riots are inevitable as the aim is not to ensure justice but to take political revenge,” he said.
Bhushan spoke about BJP leader Kapil Mishra and his “goli maaro” slogans, and videos in which police personnel were allegedly seen pelting stones during the riots. “It’s a criminal conspiracy by Delhi Police to frame innocent people protesting peacefully against an unconstitutional law, and those activists who were supporting these peaceful exemplary protests. It’s a conspiracy to let off those against whom unimpeachable evidence is available to show their involvement in these riots,” he said.
Hameed said the government’s “objective” was to “target Muslims and other marginalised, deprived sections”. “The idea is to finish off our composite culture. We are running at a great speed towards a theocratic state. It is up to us to decide now what kind of a country we want,” she said.
Krishnan expressed surprise that the government didn’t have a record of migrant deaths during the pandemic, but police had 11 lakh pages of evidence against Khalid: “This shows this government’s priority… Police is trying to isolate us, get us to speak against each other. I want to tell them — don’t even try. There are many differences between us, but we know none of us is a conspirator.”
The speakers demanded an “immediate end to the outrageous investigation”, “immediate release” of those arrested under UAPA, and constitution of a “judicial enquiry commission” to “ensure justice for the Delhi violence”.
Many at the protest were holding placards and wearing face masks which said “hum sab (we are all)”, followed by the name of someone arrested under UAPA. Among them was Khalid’s mother, who wore a face mask saying ‘hum sab Umar Khalid’.
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