NEW DELHI: Umar Khalid, a prominent student leader and well-known critic of the Indian government, escaped a gun attack unhurt in New Delhi on Monday evening.
The incident took place in the heart of the capital, just 200 meters away from the Indian Parliament and just outside the Constitution Club, which serves as a canteen for parliamentarians.
Khalid was having tea outside the club with a group of friends who had gathered there to attend a seminar titled “United Against Hate,” which was aimed at raising voices against the attack on minorities and spate of lynching in the name of cow protection and other issues.
“What has happened in the last couple of years is that an atmosphere of fear has been created and anyone who expresses dissent and criticizes the government is threatened. Today’s attack on me is an attempt to silence me and thankfully due to my friends I escaped unhurt,” Khalid told Arab News.
He also blamed “propaganda and a hateful campaign spread by certain media houses for the attack.”
In June Khalid complained to the Delhi police about a death threat he received and sought police protection.
The attack on Khalid has elicited sharp reactions from right-thinking citizens and activists.
“This is the attack on all of us,” says Shehla Rashid, Khalid’s colleague in Delhi-based Jawaharlal University (JNU) and also a fellow activist.
Rashid told Arab News: “This is an act of terror perpetuated by the right-wing Hindu group associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the patron of the present ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).”
Political analyst Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay said: “The point to wonder is that who in the world would want to kill Umar Khalid? It would obviously be those people against whom he raises voices.”
He told Arab News: “This was expected and shows that the attack is going to be on anybody who has a public profile -- those who are Muslims, those who stand up against the ideology of RSS/BJP, those who speak about Kashmir and those who are from Kashmir.”
He added that “the RSS is acting like a deep state in India now.”
Apoorvanand, an academician from Delhi University and a participant in the debate “United Against Hate,” said that “with the act we all are now vulnerable. No one is safe who speaks his mind.”
Arab News tried speaking to Anil Baluni, the national spokesperson of the BJP, but he refused to comment on the issue saying: “It's Delhi police which is best suited to answer any question on the attack on Umar.”
Khalid, a Kashmiri, came into prominence a few years ago when he and some of his fellow students in JNU were charged with sedition for allegedly organizing an event against the hanging of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.