After languishing in jail for a year now, Umar Khalid’s bail hearing was adjourned by the Delhi High Court for further arguments on September 3
This will mark Khalid’s incarceration for almost a year now, as he was arrested on September 13, 2020 on stringent charges including Sections 13, 16, 17, 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Sections 25 and 27 of the Arms Act and Section 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act,1984.
Khalid has been accused, with others, of conspiracy in connection with the Delhi Riots which took place in North East of Delhi from February 23 to 27.
Besides Khalid, JNU students Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, Jamia Coordination Committee member Safoora Zargar, Jamia Millia Islamia’s Asif Iqbal Tanha, former Aam Aadmi Party councillor Tahir Hussain, and several others, have also been booked under UAPA. Kalita, Narwhal, and Tanha were granted bail this year in June by the Delhi HC, while Zargar was released on bail in June last year on humanitarian grounds.
The accused were part of the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Senior Advocate Trideep Pais, who appeared for Khalid, told the court of Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat, that the chargesheet against his client was “complete fabrication”. “Chargesheet is a complete fabrication…selectively witnesses were brought to say this and that against my client…This FIR is a hollow FIR…laughable statements have been made. What will the prosecution achieve from this? The purpose of this FIR is not to bring home guilt, it’s hypocrisy. None of the people in this FIR should be held in custody,”
He went on to call out the press, stating that Khalid was framed by them, naming Republic TV and News 18’s coverage.
In relation to the former, Pais read “transcription of speech of Umar Khalid shown on YouTube by Republic World allegedly on 17 Feb 2020 at Amrawati Maharashtra ”.
Here he noted that Republic TV put only parts of the speech, “Further notice was sent on June 23 for providing footage available on YouTube and TV channel given on February 17”.
Reading out the reply Pais added, “Please see these are journalists who never go on the ground to see speech but are very happy to show it…They never went there. The reply says they don’t have the raw footage and that the video was obtained from a tweet done by a member of BJP”. Republic TV, also, according to Pais maintained that “the footage was not recorded by our cameraperson. It was tweeted by Mr. Amit Malviya.” (Malviya is BJP’s National in-charge of Information & Technology).
Pais then pointed to News 18 which was also served a notice with regard to a video transcript of the speech they had played, the channel had responded that they had no raw footage.
The Delhi Police’s narrative is that the riots which left 53 dead and hundreds injured, along with extensive damage to property was all a conspiracy hatched by those opposing the CAA. The time of riots was selected to cause international attention as then US president Donald Trump was visiting the Capital city. This too was argued by Pais who said, that as per the theory, the conspiracy for rioting was hatched on January 8.
However, he pointed out that the response of the Ministry of External Affairs stated that the news about Trump’s visit was announced on February 11, 2020. “They tell you I knew about Trump’s visit on January 8 when the MEA did not know? This is why I said in the beginning that they don’t want the judiciary to be a part of this process. They want your honour out of this process”.
At the time of the riots, allegations were also made against BJP leader Kapil Mishra, who had given an inflammatory speech on February 23, during a rally organized by him in North East Delhi’s Jaffrabad. In his speech Mishra had given an ultimatum to the police to clear the roads of citizenship law protesters in three days. Later he issued a call on Twitter, urging people to gather and “prevent another Shaheen Bagh” near the Jaffarabad metro station. A committee constituted by the Delhi Minorities Commission had also stated that the “violence started in different pockets almost immediately after the short speech of Shri Kapil Mishra on 23 February, 2020 at Maujpur in which he openly called for forcefully removing the protestors at Jafrabad in North East Delhi”, yet no action was taken by the authorities against him.