Former Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Umar Khalid was arrested late on Sunday night under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act(UAPA) for his alleged role in the northeast Delhi riots.
According to The Wire, Khalid has also been charged with sedition and 18 other sections of the Indian Penal Code, including murder and attempt to murder.
The arrest came a day after Delhi Police named CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav, economist Jayati Ghosh and Delhi University professor Apoorvanand in a supplementary charge sheet in the February riots cases, accusing them of provoking and mobilising anti-CAA protesters.
Khalid was arrested by the special cell of the Delhi police on Sunday after 11 hours of interrogation and will be produced before a Delhi court on Monday, the Press Trust of India reported. He had been questioned by the Delhi Police Crime Branch for a few of hours on September 2 in connection with the riots.
In April this year, Khalid had been booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in another case related to the riots. He was accused of instigating the violence by allegedly making provocative speeches.
The Wire’s report says allegations against Khalid were first aired on social media by Bharatiya Janata Party workers when they circulated an edited clip of a speech he delivered in Amravati, Maharashtra on February 17.
Khalid’s lawyer Trideep Pais had told the Indian Express on Saturday that the allegations against Khalid were “completely false, fabricated and procured illegally through duress”.
Within hours of his arrest, academics, lawyers and rights activists released a statement the Delhi Police action as a “witch hunt”.
“With deep anguish we have no doubt in saying that this investigation is not about the violence in February 2020 in the national capital, but on the completely peaceful and democratic protests across the country against the unconstitutional CAA,” the statement said.
The signatories to the statement are Ravi Kiran Jain and V. Suresh of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties, lawyers Mihir Desai and N.D. Pancholi, academics Satish Deshpande, Mary John, Apoorvanand, Nandini Sundar and Shuddhabrata Sengupta, and rights activists Aakar Patel, Harsh Mander, Farah Naqvi and Biraj Patnaik.
“It is very significant that of the 20 arrested, 19 are under the age of 31. Of which 17 have been charged under the draconian UAPA and have been imprisoned on charges of a conspiracy for the Delhi violence whereas those who actually instigated and participated in the violence has not been touched. Of the ones incarcerated, five are women, except for one all are also students,” their statement said, The Wire quoted.
Many others condemned the arrest and expressed solidarity with Khalid:
On Saturday, Sitaram Yechury, Yogendra Yadav, Jayati Ghosh and Apoorvanand were named in the supplementary chargesheet filed by Delhi Police based on the statements of the three students ― women’s collective Pinjra Tod members and JNU students Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, and Gulfisha Fathima of Jamia Milia Islamia, PTI reported. All three face charges under various sections of the UAPA.
Reacting to the charge sheet, Yechury hit out at the government through a series of tweets. “The Delhi Police is under the Centre and the Home Ministry. Its illegitimate, illegal actions are a direct outcome of the politics of BJP’s top leadership. They are scared of legitimate peaceful protests by mainstream political parties & are misusing state power to target the Opposition,” he said.
In another tweet, Yechury questioned as to why the hate speeches made during the riots were not investigated. “There is a video of poisonous speeches, why are they not being processed? Because the government has ordered that the opposition be wrapped up, either way. This is the real face, character, tricks and thinking of Modi and BJP. There will be opposition,” he said.
The Delhi Police on Sunday said it was investigating the role of all individuals who allegedly took part in the riots and were part of a larger conspiracy in organising violence in the northeast Delhi and inciting communal passion and hatred amongst communities, an official statement stated.
According to the force, the Delhi Police has registered 751 FIRs in connection with communal riots.
(With PTI inputs)