Northeast Delhi riots: Crime Branch questions activist Umar Khalid again

The former JNU scholar was last questioned in August under the same investigation, and his phone was seized

Umar Khalid

Political activist Umar Khalid was once again questioned by the Delhi Police Crime Branch on Wednesday, September 3 in connection with the Northeast Delhi riots of February 2020. He had been questioned once before in August this year. Khalid, is one of the activists, who is facing charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The others are Jamia scholars Meeran Haider, Safoora Zargar, and Danish, a resident of Northeast Delhi’s Bhajanpura. 

According to the Indian Express, a senior police officer confirmed that Khalid was summoned on Tuesday after serving a notice to him. The news report quotes the officer as stating, “On Wednesday morning, at around 11.30, he came along with his two-three family members at Sunlight Colony office and joined the investigation. We are questioning him and trying to verify some important points.” 

Last month too, Khalid had been questioned for around three hours in connection with the riots, following which his phone was seized, reported the IE. The report added that a chargesheet has already been filed in this case. FIR number 101, is against suspended Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) councilor Tahir Hussain and alleged that on January 8, 2020 “Hussian met Umar Khalid and Khalid Saifi of the United Against Hate at the Shaheen Bagh anti-CAA protest”. It alleged, cites the IE report, that Umar asked Hussian “to be prepared for something big/riots at the time of Donald Trump’s visit”, and that “he and other PFI members will help him (Hussain) financially”. The chargesheet, is based on Hussain’s police questioning and call detail record analysis, stated IE, quoting more from it, “Hussain claimed Saifi gave him money for preparations and he, from the account of companies owned by him, transferred Rs 1.10 crore to fake companies in the second week of January. He later got that amount in cash through a chain of transactions and started his preparations. He also distributed cash to anti-CAA protesters. His co-accused and several other persons in his locality also told his other supporters to get ready for big action. He also got his licensed pistol released from Khajuri Khas police station when he learnt that some persons were organising pro-CAA demonstrations nearby, to teach them a lesson.” 

Meanwhile, Khalid has written a detailed letter to the Commissioner of Delhi Police, S N Shrivastava, on Tuesday to bring to his notice “acts of fabrication and attempts at false implication” by the Special Cell’s investigating officers. Khalid informed the commissioner that an acquaintance had told him that Special Cell officers gave him a pre-drafted statement against Khalid. The IE quotes from Khalid’s letter where he mentions that the statement purposely reads: “A meeting took place on December 26, 2019 at Indian Social Institute Lodhi Road. Jamia Coordination Committee, JNU, DU students and members of UAH (United Against Hate) were present there. I got to know that in different Muslim majority regions like Shaheen Bagh… protests have to be set up. And in these protests, women and children will be involved so that police are unable to take action. Umar Khalid said that at the opportune moment, we will organise a chakka jam in Delhi so that the Government is forced to withdraw this law (CAA). On December 28, Delhi Protest Support Group was created on Whatsapp.”

According to Khalid’s letter to the Delhi Police commissioner, the acquaintance objected to signing the statement, but was threatened that his name will also be added in the statement, as being also involved in planning a roadblock. 

According to another news report in The Wire, Umar Khalid’s September letter S.N. Shrivastava, Delhi’s police commissioner, added that over the last two months his  acquaintance had been called “to the Special Cell six-seven times for questioning as a part of the ongoing investigation in the Delhi pogrom” and during one such questioning he was given the “pre-drafted statement by an officer called Mr. Joshi”. Khalid wrote to the Commissioner of Police, that his acquaintance recalled the this pre-drafted statement which translated reads as: “After the passing of the CAA by the Government of India, there was a lot of anger amidst the Muslim community. This law came to be perceived as Anti-Muslim. Protests, demonstrations, and meetings pertaining to this started across places. One such meeting took place on 26 December 2019 at Indian Social Institute, Lodhi Road, in which I went. In this meeting, Jamia Coordination Committee and students of JNU and DU were present. Members of UAH were also present in this meeting. I also got to know that members of Hum Bharat ke Log were also there. I got to know that in different Muslim majority regions Shaheen Bagh protests have to be set up. And in these protests, to the maximum extent possible, women and children will be involved so that police is unable to take action. Umar Khalid said that at the opportune moment we will organize a chakka jam in Delhi so that the Government is forced to withdraw this law. On 28.12.2019, Delhi Protest Support Group was created on Whatsapp.”

Khalid wrote that his acquaintance objected and was then asked by the officer to underline what did not happen in front of him. The acquaintance “bracketed the lines starting from ‘Mujhe yeh bhi pata chala ki hum bharat ke log ke members bhi the. Mujhe pata chala ki Dilli mein alag alag jagah Muslim bahul kshettron mein Shaheen Bagh protests khadein karne hain. Aur in protests mein zyada se zyada aurton aur bachhon ko shaamil kiya jaayega jisse police karyawahi na kar sake. Umar Khalid ne bola sahi waqt aane par hum Dilli mein chakka jam karenge jisse Sarkar ko yeh kanoon waapis lena padhe’.”  

According to Khalid, the officer then said “they would remove these lines on the condition that they will add others about XY’s role in the pogrom and how he too, was involved, in planning a chakka jam. XY told them that he did no such thing and requested them not to add this to his statement. Having administered this threat of implicating him and detailing his alleged role, they brought another form, which XY said looked like an arrest memo with UAPA written over it. Showing him this form, they told him that he had to make a choice – he could either comply and go ahead with the pre-drafted statement without any deletions or he could sign the other form. Any pleas of not putting him in this situation were naturally in vain. A totally flustered XY felt compelled to go ahead with the statement.”

Khalid’s letter, as quoted by The Wire added that the officers then “took the statement to the DCP for a final look, who added one more line to it before ‘28.12.2019 ko Delhi Protest Support Group whatsapp pe bana gaya’, which read that, ‘Is protest ko lambe samein tak chalane aur 24 ghante chalane ke liye funds bhi diye jaayenge’. (Translation: “To ensure that these protests are long-term and 24 hours, funds will be given”).” He added that his acquaintance’s statements were then recorded by the police. 

“This is not the first time that I am hearing of such “confessions” against others being extracted under duress with threats of arrests or arraignment to falsely implicate others. Even specifically against me, previously, the police claims to have obtained a “confession” from Tahir Hussain, where he allegedly says that Khalid Saifi arranged a meeting between him and me at the PFI office at Shaheen Bagh on 8th January 2020,” wrote Khalid, stating it was “absolutely false and does not have an iota of truth, as I have never met Tahir Hussain or been to the PFI office and I have already clarified this publicly. In fact, when I was questioned by the Special Cell on 31st July 2020, I was not even asked a single question about this supposed meeting with Tahir Hussain.”

The PhD holder from JNU, stated that he was  “both deeply disappointed and aghast that the police is resorting to such smear campaigns in order to give legitimacy to their actions. None of what is attributed to me in this pre-drafted statement that XY was coerced into giving was ever said by me. Despite not having a legal case or evidence against me, they are attempting to build a narrative in the minds of the general public to create ground to take action against me based on such obviously false accounts and fabricated statements.”

He stated that even though he has “largely remained silent so far in order to continue cooperating with the investigation and not make public statements when matters are sub judice,” he has realised that his “silence is being taken advantage of and used as an opportunity to freely peddle falsehoods against me. This would not be the first instance where I would be targeted based on completely false and motivated information, which is the reason why I am writing to you. I am concerned that should I continue to remain silent, I would continuously be subjected to public trial.”

Khalid concluded his letter to the Commissioner of Police hoping that “no harm will visit” his acquaintance or him, “for having spoken truthfully.”



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