More than 200 educationists, filmmakers and authors, including Noam Chomsky and Mira Nair, issued a joint statement on Wednesday demanding the Centre free Umar Khalid arrested in connection with the northeast Delhi riots. Besides Chomsky and Nair, the signatories include actor Ratna Pathak Shah, authors Amitav Ghosh, Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy, and journalist P Sainath.
“We call on the Government of India to free Umar Khalid and all those falsely implicated and unjustly incarcerated for protesting against the CAA-NRC that denies equal citizenship rights and to ensure that the Delhi Police investigates the Delhi riots with impartiality under the oath they took as public servants bound by the Constitution of India," the statement read. Khalid has been arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in a case related to the communal violence in northeast Delhi in February this year.
“We stand in solidarity and outrage, with the brave young scholar and activist Umar Khalid, arrested in New Delhi on September 14, 2020, under fabricated charges of engineering the Delhi riots in February 2020," the statement said. The statement said that Khalid “used the passion of his commitment to his country, marshalled his education and his voice to join the movement for equal citizenship, against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)" which introduced religion as a criterion for citizenship, and has no place in a secular nation.
The Delhi Police had on September 13 said it is investigating the role of all individuals who took part in the February riots and were behind the larger conspiracy of organising violence and inciting communal passion amongst communities. Delhi Police Commissioner S N Shrivastava had last week said the force has collected documentary evidence, including scientific evidence, to support its case in connection with the riots.
He said that the police have so far arrested 1,571 people irrespective of their caste or religion and they are almost equally distributed among both communities. Responding to former IPS officer Julio Ribeiro’s letter in which he had questioned the Delhi police’s investigation, Srivastava had said that there are several entities who have their reasons to weave a “web of deception" and push a “false narrative of bias and insensitivity" on the part of the police.
He said that police investigations in criminal cases are guided by facts and evidence, not by reputations and personalities. “Delhi Police are serving the oath and the Constitution with conviction, integrity and sensitivity, without fear of any self-proclaimed true patriots or favour towards any class, creed or community," Srivastava had said in an email reply to Ribeiro.
Communal clashes had broken out in northeast Delhi on February 24 after violence between those supporting the citizenship law and those opposing it spiralled out of control, leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.