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Umar Khalid – 2.5 Years Unjustly Behind the Bars

As of march 2023 Umar Khalid, a political activist and a former student at Jawaharlal Nehru University has spent the past 2.5 years in prison for advocating for equality, justice, and constitutional values on the charges of sedition and terrorism related offenses. The case of Umar Khalid is a reminder for the importance of protecting freedom of speech and dissent in the democratic society.

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Art by Danish Beig

Umar khalid marks 2.5 years behind the bars for justice.

As of March 2023 Umar Khalid, a political activist and a former student at Jawaharlal Nehru University has spent the past 2.5 years in prison for advocating for equality, justice, and constitutional values on the charges of sedition and terrorism related offenses.

Khalid was arrested in September 2020 under the Unlawful activities (prevention) act, (UAPA) a stringent anti-terrorism law that allows for extended detention without trial. The authorities accused him that he was involved in provoking communal violence in Delhi riots that took place in February 2020, during which 53 people were killed.

On March 15, umar khalid completed 2.5 years of incarceration in Tihar Jail, Delhi, where he is continuously being faceing a harsh living condition with limited access to medical care. His mother Sabiha Khanum has alleged that he was being denied from accessing books, newspaper also being subjected to physical abuse and expressed her concerns over his physical and mental wellbeing. He was repeatedly denied the bail due to the seriousness of the charge and the possibility of him tampering with evidence, according to the court.

On September 13, 2022 after 2 years of being jailed he penned the reply to an open letter by one of his friend. he quotes “For two years now, I have been hearing this announcement every night- “naam note karein, in bandi bhaiyon ki rehaai hai” (note the names, these inmates are being released). And I wait and hope for the day when I would hear my name. I often wonder, how long is this dark tunnel? Is there any light in sight yet? Am I near the end, or am I only midway through? Or has the ordeal just begun?”.  ‘It makes you feel a stranger in your own land”. He added. As this march marks two and half years of his imprisonment his liberation is a question in front of law.

Umar Khalid and Khalid Saifi has discharged in the case related to FIR 101/2020. But the duo continued to remain in jail since they have failed to receive bail in UAPA case.

Delhi high court granted interim bail of 7 days from December 23 to December 30, 2022 for attending his sister’s wedding. “ He wouldn’t sleep to live most out of that week” his mother recalled the anxious week she spent with her son during the bail. Makoob media reported. “He is in jail not for himself but for the nation.” She added.

Khalid was pursuing ph.D in history from Jawaharlal Nehru University during the JNU sedition controversy in 2016. Along with several other students he was accused of sedition based on the allegation that they had organized a protest march in support of Kashmir’s independence from India. Khalid denied the charges and claimed that he was being targeted for his political beliefs. In August 2018 he was arrested by the Delhi police in connection with Bhima Koregaon violence case. In January 2018 he was accused of being involved in a conspiracy to incite violence in Dalit rally, Bhima Koregaon, Maharashtra. He was an active voice in the student protests against the citizenship amendment act (CAA) and National register of citizens (NRC) in 2019. In September 2020 he was arrested in connection with the Delhi riots that occurred in February 2020.

According to Supreme Court, a speed justice is a fundamental right if the trial cannot be conducted promptly, and the accused has been imprisoned for a considerable duration, bail must be granted even in cases under the UAPA, 1967.

The Delhi police used the UAPA in Delhi riots conspiracy case, which is still pending trial despite the fact that the initial report was filed on March 6th 2020. The police didn’t provide the physical copy of the 17,000 page charge sheet to the 18 accused for several months. Despite the supreme court’s observation on speedy justice, Khalid’s bail hearing have lasted for over a year, for eight months in the trial court , where the public prosecutor Amit Prasad introduced a fresh allegation on the day Khalid’s lawyer, advocate Trideep Pais, was closing his argument.

The majority of 53 individuals who died during riot were Muslims, as were 18 people who are  accused of hatching a conspiracy to instigate communal violence with terrorism under UAPA and over two dozen other cases under the Indian penal code, 1860.

While Narwal, Kalita, Tanha and Safoora Zarkar, have received bail Umar Khalid, Gulfisha Fathima Khalid Saifi, Sharjeel Imam have had their bail rejected.

Sabiha Khanum, Khalid’s mother said she was pleased to hear about the supreme court granting bail to Malayali journalist Siddique Kappan, who was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police when he was on his way to cover the rape of a Dalit woman in Hathras and slapped with terror charges under the UAPA, arrested three weeks after Khalid.

Today Umar Khalid, sharjeel Imam gulfish fathima, shifa-ur- Rahman, meeran haider  and many more are in jail are not because of the violence that led to the organized massacre of fellow citizens in the capital of the nation, it is because they were standing up and putting hands on the wounds inflicted on minorities of this country.

The case of Umar Khalid is a reminder for the importance of protecting freedom of speech and dissent in the democratic society. It also reminds the need for accountability and transparency in the enforcement of law, and the need to ensure the criminal justice system is not used to target individuals for their political beliefs or opinion.

The Author is currently pursuing BA hons English at University of Delhi

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