‘Umar Khalid’s arrest an attempt to suppress voice of dissent’

New Delhi, September 15 : A group of Delhi-based rights activists, academics and lawyers described the political activist, Umar Khalid, as “one of bravest young voices who speaks for the constitutional values” and condemned the police action against him as a ‘witch hunt’.

The group in a statement issued in New Delhi said, “It is imperative that all measures are taken to avoid any threat to his life and safety so long as he remains in the custody.”

Khalid was arrested late night on September 13 and charged with sedition, offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act as well as murder and attempt to murder.The charges stem from police claims that Khalid and others who were involved in peaceful protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens had “conspired” to trigger riots in Delhi so as to embarrass the Modi government in the eyes of the world.

“As citizens deeply committed to constitutional values, we condemn the arrest of Umar Khalid who has been subjected to a malicious investigation targeting peaceful anti-CAA protestors,” the statement says. “With deep anguish we have no doubt in saying that this investigation is not about the violence in February 2020 in Delhi, but on the completely peaceful and democratic protests across India against the unconstitutional CAA.”

The statement said that “he has emerged as a strong and powerful voice of young Indians in favour of the constitution and of democracy.”

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.

The group said the “repeated attempts by the Delhi police to implicate [Khalid] in a number of fictitious cases of conspiracy for the Delhi violence are part of a brazen attempt to suppress his voice of dissent”. They also drew attention to the manner in which young people have been targeted.

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