"Umar is Always Smiling and Asks Me to be Strong"
Khalid's mother recalls the strength she draws from her activist son in jail.
Activist Umar Khalid completed two years in Delhi's Tihar Jail on Tuesday under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). He still awaits trial.
To mark his continued incarceration, friends and family gathered at the Press Club for an event titled 'In pursuit of Justice'. They spoke about the activist's courage, which has not died down even after he has been imprisoned.
Speaking to The Citizen, Khalid's mother Sabiha Khanum said that her son is in good spirits despite the hardships he faces in jail. "Umar is always smiling and he always consoles me by asking me to be strong," she said.
Khanum added that Khalid has now spent two years in jail for a crime he has not committed. "In Umar's case they [the police] said that he had instigated violence with his speech. But that is not the case. Umar always speaks in the legal framework and has never ignored that. He was thereafter slapped with a law where you cannot even get bail," she said.
However, she said that her belief in courts is still intact and she is optimistic that he will come out of jail soon. "Lower court might have rejected his bail but the order is still reserved in the higher court and I genuinely believe that it would be in our favour. We not only want bail but that all the charges be removed," she said.
Later while addressing the media and activists, Khanum recalled how she managed to 'meet' her son by just touching his finger. "Two months ago, when Umar was waiting for a court hearing, he was not allowed to come out of the van, which took him to court and prison. It was peak summer and he was made to wait for a couple of hours in the same van. I did not know this before, but there were double doors, and iron barriers inside the van separating each person, which had a little space between them.
"I was requesting the police to let me meet Umar, however suddenly, I saw Umar take out one of his fingers through the gap between the iron barriers, and he touched my finger. To this the policeman laughed and said, 'ho gayi mulakat' (the meeting is done)," she said. Khanum added that such things are teaching them patience.
Activist Banojyotsna Lahiri, who is Umar Khalid's close friend, spoke to The Citizen and called the case against him "a political, vindictive case".
"Of 700 FIRs filed around the Delhi riots, this is just one FIR, which talks about conspiracy and the ensuing investigation is only about the anti-CAA riots," she said.
She added that the legal processes, for various reasons like Covid-19 pandemic, had also slowed down. Khalid was arrested by Delhi Police on September 13, 2020. He has been booked under provisions of The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
The Delhi Police charged Khalid for disrupting religious sentiments and argued that he was a part of a larger conspiracy in the riots that jolted the national Capital. The Delhi High Court had last week reserved its order on Khalid's bail plea.
Khalid had contended that he neither had any "criminal role" in the violence nor any "conspiratorial connection" with any other accused in the matter.
Meanwhile, speaking at the event, Supreme Court advocate Shahrukh Alam claimed that the FIR against Khalid is "nothing but a political document" and that there is no "substantial evidence" against him.
"When the court tells us to keep politics away, it is when someone questions the policies of the government. FIR number 59 of 2020 doesn't mention any offence and there's no substantial evidence in the FIR. It is purely a political document and so was the state's counter during Khalid's bail hearing," Alam said.
During his bail plea hearing, Khalid said that there was no material to support the case of the prosecution against him and that he raised issues that several others were discussing in the country, including those concerning the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Khalid, Sharjeel Imam, and several others were booked under the anti-terror law UAPA, and provisions of the Indian Penal Code for allegedly being the "masterminds" of the February 2020 riots, which had left 53 people dead and over 700 injured.
The event also marked the incarceration of activist Khalid Saifi and Gulfisha Fatima, Meeran Haider and JNU scholar Sharjeel Imam.