Only evidence against Umar Khalid is “exercising constitutional right” :Noam Chomsky

The only credible evidence against jailed activist Umar Khalid that has been presented is that he was exercising his constitutional right to speak and to protest, a fundamental prerogative of citizenship in a free society, said world renowned intellectual and activist Noam Chomsky.

On Saturday, Dr. Noam Chomsky along with Professor Rajmohan Gandhi, Research Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, issued video statements condemning the Indian government’s “unjust incarceration” of Muslim student activist and protest leader Umar Khalid ahead of a crucial hearing in Khalid’s case, scheduled for July 3.

“Khalid was arrested and held without bail for over a year. Despite the insignificance of the charges, Khalid remains under court-ordered constraints for the long duration of trials on what the government claims were riots,” Chomsky said.

Khalid’s case, Chomsky said in his recorded statement, “is one of many that shed a grim light on India’s system of justice during a period of repression, and often violence, that has been visibly undermining free institutions…as part of the large-scale government effort to dismantle India’s honorable tradition of secular democracy and to impose a Hindu ethnocracy.”

“Rightly, the secular democracy created in India in its recovery from brutal and destructive British rule has been praised as one of the great achievements of the modern age. The recent regression is therefore deeply saddening,” added Chomsky.

He said as concluding remarks: “We can all only hope that the courageous defense of freedom of justice on the part of many young activists will succeed in reversing this tragic course, and pave the way for India’s return to leadership in the search for a better world, one that honors peace and justice, drawing from India’s rich and impressive tradition.”

Prof. Gandhi highlighted Khalid’s scholarly contributions as a doctoral student at JNU, stating that “in [Khalid], India possesses one of its finest minds, reinforced by a sensitive conscience…this brilliant young son of India has now been silenced for 20 continuous months.”

Hindus for Human Rights, Indian American Muslim Council, Dalit Solidarity Forum, and India Civil Watch International also joined Dr. Chomsky and Prof. Gandhi in calling for Umar Khalid’s immediate release.

For nearly two years, Umar Khalid, a former student leader at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), has been incarcerated by the Delhi Police for his role in leading protests in early 2020 against the discriminatory, anti-Muslim Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

He was arrested in September 2020 under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), a draconian law which gives the state broad authority to designate any individual as a “terrorist” and detain them without a fair trial.

Khalid is just one of the countless activists, dissidents, and human rights defenders who have been jailed under this law.