Political prisoner Khalid Saifi is vulnerable to Covid-19

By punishing Khalid Saifi, who led many pro-democracy and anti-CAA-NRC-NPR protests, BJP government wants to set an example for dissenters, claims wife Nargis

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The last post on Khalid Saifi’s timeline was – “Please contact the number mentioned below if Ambulance or Medical team is required anywhere in Delhi. Pls mention proper Name, Address and contact person.” The post dates back to the very day he was arrested by Delhi Police – 26 February 2020.

Five months down the line his family, comprising his wife and three kids, is left with no option but to make repeated attempts to get him out on bail, while Delhi Police, and the special cell set up to investigate the Delhi Riots, have successfully managed to stall his bail and also got an extension to file their chargesheet.

Who is Khalid Saifi?

Khalid, with a group of friends, had set up a civil group called United Against Hate (UAH), which has played a vital role in raising a voice against mob lynching at the national capital as well as across the country.

eNewsroom reached out to Nargis Saifi, wife of Khalid Saifi, to find out about the man accused of rioting leading to loss of lives and property. A distraught Nargis mentioned, “He is the best husband anyone could ask for. He is the best abbu (father) any child could have, but, above all this, he is a great human being. My husband, a businessman by profession, chose to become an activist at a time when India was witnessing several mob lynching cases. He used to tell me if we don’t raise our voice then who will speak for the oppressed.”

“They have even raised funds to support the families who have lost family members to cow vigilantes. UAH had even reached out to the family members of the UP police officer (Subodh Kumar Singh) who was shot dead by a mob. They even extended legal support to the family,” recounted Nargis.

But, according to police and several media reports, Khalid is the connecter between student activist Umar Khalid and former AAP leader, who is now a Delhi-riot accused, Tahir Hussain. Khalid has also been accused of having met Zakir Naik in Singapore. The police are pointing fingers at the fund received by his NGO. The donation in question was allegedly made by a Singapore-based businessman and the police believe that this fund was used to fund the Delhi-riots.

“The police have wonderful theories like the now-famous conspiracy theory where they have accused my husband of plotting the riots with Umar Khalid and Tahir Hussain. But there is no truth in these stories fed by them to the media, who are ready to scavenge on any piece of meat to build sensation,” said Nargis. She paused and continued with a laugh, “If they had the evidence then do you think they would have asked for another extension to file the chargesheet? They have kept him behind bars for months but are unable to file a chargesheet till date.”

social activist khalid saifi caa nrc covid
Khalid Saifi giving a memorandum to AAP leader Atishi Marlena

Tryst with NRC

When the first list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published a fact-finding team, comprising members of UAH and senior journalists, had traveled to Assam. According to Nargis this was the turning point. “The helplessness of the people in Assam made him and his team pledge to create awareness regarding this anti-constitutional law. We have our documents to prove our citizenship, but what about the people who do not have such documents despite being citizens of India? And thus began UAH’s dedicated campaigning against NRC, NPR and CAA,” she shared.

After a pause she added, “We had anticipated that this kind of situation might arise, but we had never imagined that it would arise so soon. Anti-CAA-NRC-NPR movement was at its peak when the Delhi riots happened. On the day he was arrested I vividly remember that he was busy arranging for ambulances in affected areas.”

A customary glance through Khalid’s FB profile authenticates her claim. Pictures of him submitting letters to AAP leaders demanding the non-implementation of NRC-NPR and CAA. His organisation UAH, apart from dharnas during the anti-CAA-NRC-NPR movement, even organised anti-CAA-NRC-NPR workshops with former civil servants like Kanan Gopinathan to create awareness about the loopholes and dangers of the proposed controversial laws.

“He was very vocal about his reservations against these laws which are anti-poor and anti-marginalised. I have a feeling that my husband is being framed for becoming a strong opposer of these anti-constitutional laws,” she said.

Khalid is being targeted to demotivate dissenters

Speaking over the phone, Nargis didn’t mince words and declared, “My husband went walking with the police to Jagatpuri Thana when he was arrested from home on February 26, 2020. When our lawyers reached the police station they were assaulted and abused. They refused to let them meet Khalid. Very late at night we received a call from Khalid stating that he would be shifted to Mandoli jail. By then, I am assuming, they had produced him before the magistrate without giving him access to his lawyer or family. By doing so they denied my husband his right to defend himself.”

However, according to Nargis, the real shocker was yet to come. When she, along with her in-laws, reached the jail to meet Khalid, they saw across the plexiglass separation that her husband was entering the room on a wheelchair. “His legs were plastered. His hands were bandaged. His hair and beard told tales of torture. There were scratches on his face. I still can’t express how it felt when I saw him for the first time in jail. I fail to understand why Khalid is being punished like a hardcore criminal?” She asked as her voice quivered recalling the telltale signs of police torture. And then she rhetorically answered, “I guess the government feels that this is the only way they can crush the voice of dissent. Khalid was a known face, a leader of the movement. If Khalid is being subjected to this kind of torture, abuse and defaming, then it might force other dissenters to go silent.”

Pandemic an excuse to hound activists

Nargis further stated, “I refrain from talking to mainstream media. They can break and mould words to suit their agenda, which at the moment is to show dissenters as anti-national.”

The pandemic, she maintained, is being used by the central government to hound the faces that were at the forefront of the movement. “Right from Safoora Zargar to Varvara Rao to Dr Kafeel, you can see how strong voices are being targeted and harassed, so that they breakdown into submission,” she said.

Nargis maintained, “The Apex Court, due to the pandemic, had asked those in authority to release prisoners who don’t have serious charges against them. Rapists and terror accused have been let off, but political prisoners have not been released. Quite clearly the rapists and terror accused pose no threat to the present regime since they won’t question the government’s wrongdoings even though they pose a serious threat to society. But those like my husband remain implicated in false cases for which the police will take their own sweet time to file the chargesheet.”

She also added that her husband is diabetic, which is a co-morbidity factor in Covid-19 cases, and she cannot deny the health risk involved with her husband being in jail during the pandemic. “One positive case of Covid-19 was detected in the jail where he has been put up. Varvara Rao has been infected with this deadly disease. So the risk is high, especially when different police officers are interrogating him, taking him to places on the pretext of investigation. He can get infected any time.”

Faith in judiciary

On being asked if she is hopeful of Khalid getting bail soon, she said, “We have faith in the judiciary. Also, we know that Khalid is being framed. He is innocent. The police, even after five months, are seeking extension just to file a chargesheet. This shows that there is no evidence against him. I have faith in Allah and the Indian judiciary.”

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