NEW DELHI -- While the Delhi Police is hunting for Jawaharlal Nehru University student Umar Khalid, his father has asked the Indian media not to carry out its own trial.
The Delhi Police suspect that Khalid, a PhD candidate at JNU, organized an event to mark the third anniversary of Afzal Guru's execution. The Kashmiri militant was found guilty by Indian courts for his role in the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament, and he was executed in 2013.
Khalid allegedly raised "anti-national" slogans at the event on Feb. 9.
His father, Syed Qasim Ilyas, a Delhi-based politician, has said that he used to be part of Students Islamic Movement of India, but left many years before the organization was banned by the Indian government.
"If they were seditionist, it should be decided by the court. There should not be a media trial. He was fighting for adivasis and poor farmers. Most of his time was spent in JNU or Jantar Mantar. He used to reach wherever there was crisis," Ilyas said, PTI reported.
"The beauty of JNU is that it accommodates people of different ideologies and gives a platform to raise their voice," he said, pointing out that such events were not a novelty on campus.
Over the past week, some sections of the media have portrayed Khalid as a budding jihadist who supported Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a terrorist group based in Pakistan.
Khalid told NDTV that he doesn't subscribe to the slogans that Khalid raised, but questioned whether praising Afzal Guru can be considered seditious. "I don't subscribe to some of the slogans Umar raised..but can praise for Afzal Guru be considered sedition?," he said.
While the Intelligence Bureau has denied linking Khalid with either JeM or the anti-national slogans, his family members have asked whether the JNU student is being harangued because of his Muslim name. They have also pointed out that neither is he religious nor does he have a passport, which rules out any travel to Pakistan.
“All of our family have passports, even my youngest daughter. But Umar never got a passport, he has never sat in an aircraft. Today they say he went to Pakistan and had links with JEM and Hafiz Saeed,” Ilyas told The Indian Express.
“It has been hard, worrying about Umar and going through this. We are educated people who have engaged in social work through our lives as much as we could. We never went after corporate jobs. My ideologies may be different from my son’s but I never did that and neither did he. And look where we are now, what is being said of us," he said.