New Delhi: As September 13 marked one year of the unjust incarceration of activist Umar Khalid, prominent personalities in a public meeting held on Monday raised questions on whether citizens have the right to oppose the government or it would cost their freedom.
In the meeting held at Press Club of India, the speakers condemned false charge sheets, doctored evidence, dubious witness statements etc. which are used to rob freedom of those who dissent.
Former member of Planning Commission and women's right's activist Syeda Hameed said that the mistake which Umar Khalid had made was that he opposed CAA, NPR, NRC and supported women of Shaheen Bagh, upholding Gandhiji's ideals.
The current administration of the country is scared of Umar's courage, she said.
Founding editor of the news portal, The Wire, Siddharth Varadarajan, said that the charge sheet against Umar Khalid was ridiculous. He said the charge sheet included an argument that the purpose of the Delhi riots on the eve of Donald Trump's visit was to defame PM Narendra Modi. But it was a lie since international media was reporting the protests since 2019 December, he said.
He asserted that the CAA protesters were arrested for covering up real perpetrators of the Delhi riots. Hindutva leaders who called for Muslim genocide were only charged with flimsy sections, he added.
Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan said that the investigation on the riots was nothing but a conspiracy to frame innocents and cover up real culprits.
Zafrul Islam Khan, the former chairperson of the Delhi Minority Commission noted how the police hadn't cooperated with the Commission's proceedings during the riot investigation and how the police approached the court asking not to place the Commission's report before any court.
Leader of the movement for farmers' rights, Jasbeer Kaur, said that the protesting farmers were also being branded as terrorists and Khalistanis to derail farmers' protests. Shaheen Bagh was a voice against an unjust law, like farmers' agitation. It is Kapil Mishra and the rioters who must have been imprisoned instead of Umar Khalid, Jasbeer Kaur said.
Bharat Bhushan said an authoritarian government needs an enemy, and the BJP rule made one out of Umar.During the session, Farah Naqvi, the moderator allowed for the speech of Umar Khalid at Amravati in February 2020 be played in the house - the speech that was distorted by the BJP IT cell to frame Umar. During the his recent bail hearing when Delhi police was asked about the source of the footage, the court was told that this was procured from media houses; when the same media houses were asked, they said that they procured it from BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya's tweet.
The meeting ended on a note of hope, putting faith in Judiciary, as in recent weeks, courts have passed around 20 orders related to Delhi riots cases in which police were damned for their shoddy investigations.
A year ago, Umar Khalid, a historian and an activist, was called for questioning by the Delhi Police Special Cell and was never let out. He was summoned for his speech against CAA and was charged under UAPA.