A prominent student activist has been arrested for his alleged role in the deadly riots in Delhi earlier this year as police continue to gather anti-government figures in an investigation which has been condemned as politically motivated.
There were protests between activists and politicians after police arrested Umar Khalid on Sunday evening, naming him as a conspirator in the Delhi riots case and arresting him under a draconian law of terrorism. He will be held in police custody for the next 10 days.
Kahlids’ father, Syed Qasim Rasool Ilyas, who is a politician from the Welfare Party of India, said the arrest was nothing more than an attempt to seduce activists and silence the voices of those who oppose the government.
The Delhi riots that engulfed the capital for three days in February were some of the worst religious violence in the city in decades. Both Hindus and Muslims used violence but Muslims were disproportionately affected as armed Hindu crowds attacked Muslims, burning thousands of homes and several mosques. Of the 53 who died, 40 were Muslims.
Beensted widely documented that the riots were sparked by an inflammatory speech made by Kapil Mishra, a leader from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who threatened to use force to oust a group of peaceful Muslim protesters.
A recent report by Amnesty International claimed that Delhi police had committed serious human rights violations during the municipal riots, including beating Muslim protesters and participating in violence alongside Hindu crowds.
Delhi police, however, have claimed a completely different narrative, accusing pro-democracy activists and students of a plot to incite municipal hatred. The arrests over the past two months have targeted those involved in protests in December after the government passed a new act of changing citizenship (CAA) which was seen as discriminatory against Muslims.
Khalid, a former student activist at Delhi University Jawaharlal Nehru (JNU) who was heavily involved in anti-CAA protests, has been accused of organizing riots at meetings in January coinciding with a visit by US President Donald Trump. He is also accused of giving inflammatory speeches
In the speech in front of the students at JNU in January, Khalid said: We do not respond to violence with violence. We will not respond to hate with hatred. If they spread hatred, we will respond with love. If they beat us with lathis, we keep holding the tricolor.
Khalid is one of dozens of pro-democracy and human rights activists arrested or named in Delhi riots. However, none of the BJP figures or police officers implicated in the violence have been questioned or arrested.
Dr Shashi Tharoor, a politician from the opposition Congress Party, wrote on Twitter in response to Khalids’ arrest: The Prime Minister says he welcomes the criticism, but forgets to mention the cost of the criticism those who speak must pay.
It’s a conspiracy by the police to put peaceful activists in the guise of investigation, said prominent Indian lawyer Prashant Bhushan.
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