He is a 30-year-old Muslim student who has an opinion on everything and whose ideologies are definitely not populist. Umar Khalid is the same JNU student who had reportedly lead a protest against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in February last year.
Now, in the final year of his research degree, Umar was in the city for an interactive session with students at Lamakaan on Sunday. He opened up about the fateful day when the entire nation saw sedition charges being slapped against him and what happened post the February of 2016.
After completing an M.A. in history and M.Phil from JNU, Umar is currently pursuing his PhD in social studies with the key focus on the tribal belt of Jharkhand. Describing what it feels like to be the talk of the nation, he says, “Life has been quite interesting post the February 2016 incident. The government did its best to portray us as the biggest enemy of the nation. I was arrested and put into jail for 20 days for just speaking my mind. All the media houses also joined forces and ran a proxy war against us, labelling us as ‘traitors’ who use state money to fund their education but go against the state itself. Nevertheless, the police couldn’t file a charge sheet to prove their side of the story to be true. Till date we receive death threats for voicing our concerns. But here I am in Hyderabad, interacting with students, sharing what I feel.”
This is Umar’s fourth visit to the city and he loves Hyderabad — not just for the yummy biryani but for having a strong student voice. “I have always felt that the students of Hyderabad have a voice and mind of their own and they are not afraid to raise concerns with the authorities. If any day, there comes a need to shift the capital of India from Delhi, it should be Hyderabad,” he states.
Elaborating on the challenges the entire student community in the country is going through at present, Umar says, “In the recent past, there have been multiple cases coming to light where students have faced the wrath of the government or government-aided organisations just for expressing their opinions. But everyone has held their ground without getting scared, which is great.” Clearly, like all other students and youngsters, Umar — who loves having fun with friends and family and watching movies — has a life beyond talks, research or demonstrations. He has a life beyond explaining himself.