The flimsy case against Umar Khalid is a blueprint for the state’s strategy against dissent

25 March 2022
Former JNU student and social activist Umar Khalid during a protest against episodes of sectarian violence, the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens.
MANISH RAJPUT/SOPA IMAGES/LIGHTROCKET/GETTY IMAGES
Former JNU student and social activist Umar Khalid during a protest against episodes of sectarian violence, the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens.
MANISH RAJPUT/SOPA IMAGES/LIGHTROCKET/GETTY IMAGES

On Thursday, the Karkardooma court in New Delhi ordered that Umar Khalid’s application for bail be dismissed. Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat wrote in the order dismissing bail that while he agreed with the defense counsel Trideep Pais “that there were some inconsistencies in the statements of some protected witnesses” against Umar Khalid, nevertheless, “on perusal of the charge-sheet and accompanying documents…” he was of the opinion “that the allegations against Umar Khalid are prima facie true.” Judge Rawat goes on to say that in a conspiracy “one act cannot be read in isolation. At times, if read by itself, a particular act or activity may appear innocuous, but if it is a part of a chain of events constituting a conspiracy, then all the events must be read together.”

Umar and several others have been charged in connection to an alleged conspiracy behind the communal violence that took place in Delhi, in February 2020. According to government estimates, fifty three people died in the violence, and more than five hundred people were injured. Delhi Police arrested Umar in September 2020 under FIR 59 and charged him under several sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act including terrorist activity and conspiracy, and also under provisions of the Indian Penal Code including murder, rioting, sedition, conspiracy and promoting communal enmity. Umar was also formally arrested in October 2020 under FIR 101 but was granted bail in this case in April 2021. 

Umar will remain in prison unless this dismissal of his bail application under FIR 59 is overturned on appeal to a higher court, because, a judge thinks that the “inconsistent statements” of prosecution witnesses and “innocuous acts” undertaken by the accused are not by themselves adequate to prima facie establish innocence. 

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    Shuddhabrata Sengupta is an artist with the Raqs Media Collective.

    Keywords: Umar Khalid Delhi Violence Delhi Police Anti-CAA Protests NRC
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