On Thursday, former JNU student Umar Khalid told a Delhi court that he is being kept in solitary confinement by Tihar Jail officials. Solitary confinement is usually reserved for inmates who are a danger to others, and so Khalid asked the court why he was being punished with such treatment.
Ex JNU student leader, Umar Khalid, had been arrested by the Special Cell of Delhi police in connection with a UAPA case on September 13th. On March 6th, an FIR was registered against police by sub-inspector Arvind Kumar, who alleged that, according to an informer, the riots in North-east Delhi was a “premeditated conspiracy” hatched by Khalid and a few others.
Umar Khalid had been active in the anti-CAA and anti-NRC protests until the COVID-19 pandemic and condemned the anti-muslim pogrom that took place in the Delhi riots. In the past year, he, along with many other activists were arrested using the draconian UAPA law.
Along with another JNU student who has been arrested through UAPA in connection with the Delhi riots, Sharjeel Imam, Khalid was produced before the Additional Sessions Judge on Thursday.
Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad moved an application seeking 30 days judicial custody for Khalid and Imam. But ASJ Rawat stated that as he was ill, he could not look at the case files, and therefore cannot grant the request for extension of their judicial custody.
As the court was fixing the next date of hearing, Khalid’s counsel requested permission for him to speak. Khalid told the court that for the past 3-4 days, jail officials had forbidden him from stepping out his jail cell, forbidden from speaking to him. Khalid noted that on 17th October, the judge said that he must be provided security so he can go about his day without being discriminated, but this did not mean effectively putting him into solitary confinement. While the order was for his security, it seemed Tihar Jail officials were punishing Khalid without reason.
He told the Judge that that one morning, the jail superintendent visited him, and agreed with his grievance and assured that his jail cell should be opened. When he was there, Khalid was left out for ten minutes, but after he left jail staff locked him in once again.
“This is solitary confinement, I have also not been well for the past 3 days and not been allowed to walk…as my comfort. I need security but security cannot be that I cannot step out at all. This is like a punishment, why am I been given this punishment?”
Recently, Dr G N Saibaba also raised similar concerns. The professor- who is 90% disabled- was also arrested under UAPA and denied many basic rights including medicine. He is also living in solitary confinement in an “anda cell” and asked why he was being punished. Unfairly putting them in solitary and denying them basic care seems to be jail officials method of punishing activists charged under UAPA.
Khalid, who was speaking to the judge through a video conference, also requested ASJ Rawat to tell the jail officials to unmute his call; the jail officials insisted that they could not do so when Khalid wants to inform the Court of something until the judge tells them to do so.
The Court obliged and stated the the Superintendent must be brought in on Friday.