More than 200 academicians, filmmakers and authors, including linguist Noam Chomsky and filmmaker Mira Nair, issued a joint statement on Wednesday demanding the Centre to free former JNU student and activist Umar Khalid, who was arrested by the Delhi Police on September 13, in connection with the February Northeast Delhi riots.
The signatories pointed out that 19 of the 21 people falsely accused under terror laws are Muslims. They have denounced the action as a 'pre-meditated witch-hunt against India's best and brightest', adding that Khalid and others were falsely accused by the Delhi Police under the UAPA Act.
"We call on the Government of India to free Umar Khalid and all those falsely implicated and unjustly incarcerated for protesting against the CAA-NRC that denies equal citizenship rights and to ensure that the Delhi Police investigates the Delhi riots with impartiality under the oath they took as public servants bound by the Constitution of India," the statement read.
The statement mentions all those arrested under UAPA including Pinjra Tod activists Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal.
In Khalid's defence, the dignitaries stated that he has been projected as a jihadi, and a figure of hate by sections of a compromised Indian media, not only because he speaks persuasively against government policies that he believes are unjust, but also because he is Muslim.
Several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, who gave inflammatory speeches inciting their supporters and urging them to 'shoot the traitors', have no cases registered against them. Instead, young protestors have been targeted and thrown into jail, they added.
The statement comes days after the police denied that BJP leader Kapil Mishra delivered any provocative speech, saying that he was simply conveying his intention to cops to take action if the roads are not cleared by people who are protesting against the new citizenship regime.
Other signatories include authors Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh and Arundhati Roy; philosophers Angela Davis, Cornel West, Achille Mbembe and Akeel Bilgrami; economists Richard Jolly and Prabhat Patnaik; filmmakers Mira Nair and Anand Patwardhan; actress Ratna Shah; former Indian Navy chief L. Ramdas; and historians Ramachandra Guha, Sheldon Pollock, David Hardiman, Rajmohan Gandhi and Sumit Sarkar.