Published: 14th August 2018
Do I have to die to get police protection: JNU's Umar Khalid after being shot at
Khalid says he had previously asked for police protection but the Delhi police never took him seriously.
It has been 24 hours since a man tried to shoot Umar Khalid right outside the Constitution Club located in the center of the national capital in a high-security zone. He says he's still in shock over what happened but he is not surprised. He had expected it to happen at some point but can you ever be prepared for a gun to your chest?
While Khalid and three of his friends were drinking tea at a stall outside the Club, a man pushed him to the ground from behind and pointed the gun at his chest and his stomach. He and his friends managed to push the attacker away and the former fled the scene, shooting once again before disappearing into the crowd. Khalid says he did not get a chance to see the attacker's face but his friends have given the police a sketch that is now being circulated. "The fact that the incident happened exactly two days before Independence Day when security is already high is what is truly scary. The irony of it all is that I was there to attend a session titled 'Freedom from Fear'," Khalid said.
Not surprised: Umar Khalid has received continuous death threats the last few years
The event was attended by missing JNU student Najeeb's mother Fatima Nafees, Alimuddin's wife, the lynching victim whose attackers were recently garlanded by a BJP leader, Maryam, the mother of Junaid who was lynched on a train last year, Fatima, Rakbar Khan’s brother Akbar and Dr Kafeel Khan — all of whom have been victims of the violence against minorities or people who had chosen to speak up. Amidst all these people, Khalid says that the fact that someone tried to shoot him only goes to prove what he has been saying all this while — that dissent is only being met with violence.
The student leader blames the prime time news shows for inciting the violence against him. "I demand an investigation and I want the police to find the culprit. But I don't want it to stop there. I want the people who have created this atmosphere of hate against me to be taken to task as well, and that includes members of the ruling party and many media channels as well. These news channels in their debates are calling me anti-national, they are branding me without any evidence, without any proof. There is no chargesheet either. This is purely propaganda," he says.
People are already saying the incident was staged and that Khalid is doing it for publicity, but at the same time, he is continuing to receive death threats. There are some people who are also showing disappointment at the fact that nothing really happened, "It is very obvious that these are methods to instill fear in people. By calling me an urban Naxal and saying things like they want to cut me up into pieces, prefixing 'tukde, tukde' to my name. However, they are not just after me, they are after everyone who is speaking up and who are questioning what is happening," Khalid reckons.
Failed Attack: Umar Khalid just after the shooting incident
Khalid has previously requested the Delhi police for protection twice when he felt like his life was in serious danger but says that they never paid him any attention. Does he think they will sit up and listen now? "They have said that they have sent the application to the higher-ups for permission to grant me protection and they say they are quite confident I will get it. I'm just hoping it happens. I don't know if they're just going to wait for me die till they actually do something," he added.
Have any of the political parties or leaders reached out to him in the last 24 hours? "No one has got in touch with me personally but I have seen that the Congress and a few other parties have put out a statement condemning the incident," Khalid said. The JNU student says he thanks all those who have come forward to condemn the incident, but wants people to be vocal about it too, "What happened to me today could happen to you tomorrow. This is not just about me getting attacked, it's about the safety of democracy. It is a fight against injustice," he pointed out.
"The government has failed to show proof that they have delivered on their promises, whether it comes to jobs or farmers or healthcare or banks, People are scamming banks and running away to other countries and the government wants to make me the villain. People like me, Kanhaiya Kumar, Jignesh Mevani and Shehla Rashid are now imaginary villains," Khalid tells us.
Police failure: Umar Khalid has twice before requested police protection but was never given any
As he mentioned earlier, Khalid says he wasn't entirely surprised when he saw a gun pointed at him, especially after the what happened to Dhabolkar, Kalburgi, Pansare and Gauri Lankesh. But what about his family, how had they reacted to all this? Surely they might not have expected this? "They were pretty shaken but now they are calm and composed. They have questions, of course, they wonder why this happened to me. But they know that we are confronting the forces and there are consequences. But as a family, we are together. Not just my family and friends but all my progressive liberal friends are with me. In the last few hours, so many people have messaged me with good wishes, 99 percent of them I don't even know. So we are all coming together," he said. Umar says he is glad that people are coming out in such large numbers to condemn the incident but he says that people should not stop questioning, "We have to keep asking questions, we have to keep the dialogue going. That's the only way that we can keep democracy alive."
The student unionist declares that he isn't going to back down, "If they believe that with attacks like this they are going to scare us into silence, then they are gravely mistaken. The ideas of Gauri Lankesh and Rohith (Vemula) have outlived them. They cannot browbeat us into silence, neither with their jails nor with their bullets," he wrote in his post.