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'I thought of Gauri Lankesh when I saw the gun so close to me'

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
Last updated on: August 14, 2018 10:13 IST
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'He wanted to fire, I held his hand tightly so that he would not be able to shoot.'

IMAGE: Umar Khalid speaks to the media after he was shot at. Photograph: Shahbaz Khan/PTI Photo

Jawaharlal Nehru University student Umar Khalid on Monday, August 13, says he was shot at at the Constitution Club near Parliament, an area that has turned into a high-security fortress ahead of Independence Day.

The attacker escaped, says Khalid, who was unhurt in the incident.

"I have been demonised by BJP spokespersons and news anchors of prime time shows. They spread canards and lies about me. They say that I am anti-India and anti-national. This has made my life very vulnerable," Khalid tells's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

What were you doing at the Constitution Club?

I am associated with United Against Hate, which works for the victims of mob lynchings.

The organisation completed one year and therefore families who have become victims of mob lynchings had come to attend the event.

Like the families of Rakbar or Alimuddin, who were killed in mob lynchings.

The programme was at 2.30 pm and I reached there by 2.10 pm.

I then went to have tea with my friends.

When I was coming back to the event, a man came out of nowhere and jumped on me.

He flung me to the ground with all force.

He then took out a gun and pointed it at me.

He wanted to fire, (but) I held his hand tightly, so that he would not be able to shoot.

My friends jumped in and dragged the man away from me.

As soon as he was dragged away by my friends, he ran away.

Before running away, he fired a shot near us.

I ran inside the programme hall to save my life.

Why would someone want to kill you?

As of now, I don't know who that person was.

It is for the Delhi police to investigate.

However, there is a pattern going on in India when people like (rationalists Narendra) Dabholkar, (Govind) Pansare or (journalist) Gauri Lankesh, who were speaking in defence of democracy and critical of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), their lives were made vulnerable.

After the Gauri Lankesh murder, I found out that there is a hit-list to eliminate (such people) which consists of my name too.

I have been demonised by BJP spokespersons and news anchors of prime time shows.

They spread canards and lies about me.

They say that I am anti-India and anti-national.

This has made my life very vulnerable.

This must be the first assassination attempt on me, but for the past two years I have received death threats twice.

If something happens to me in the coming days, then I appeal to the people that they must hold those people responsible for my death who are spreading false and baseless charges against me.

These people are creating the environment where I am being portrayed as anti-national and anti-Hindu.

This is a very dangerous trend.

In the last two-and-a-half years, in the JNU case, the police have not been able to proceed one bit ahead.

There has not been a chargesheet till now.

They must apologise to me.

But you have been linked with the 'tukde tukde' group in a section of the media.

This is precisely what I mean by demonisation.

The police have not been able to find out who gave the tukde tukde slogan.

But the media and BJP spokespersons say they want to do tukde tukde of Umar Khalid.

The man who came to kill me today came to do tukde tukde of me.

I am not saying they sent the killers, but they created an atmosphere against me.

Why do you think any random man would attack you?

Right now I am at the police station and I am waiting for a copy of the FIR (first information report).

Who is this man who attacked me?

It is for the police to answer.

What were his motivations?

The police have to answer.

This is very scary.

It happened in the heart of the capital.

It is a few kilometres away from Parliament at the Constitution Club.

There was a BJP programme going on there.

I want to ask the BJP: Why didn't they condemn the attack on me?

Did the man actually fire? On social media, people claim no gun shot was heard.

I heard the gun shot.

People who were present there heard the gun shot.

The guard there heard the gun shot.

One of my friends escaped the firing.

The attacker could not shoot me because I was holding his hand tightly.

But when he ran away, he turned and fired at me.

What was going through your mind when you saw the gun?

I thought of Gauri Lankesh when I saw the gun so close to me.

In those 10 seconds, when I was resisting the attack, I thought my time had come to die.

They killed Gauri Lankesh, Dabholkar and Pansare, but the ideas for which they stood don't get killed.

The ideas that we all represent is for a better India.

We represent the India of Bhagat Singh.

The irony is that we were talking of being freed from fear at that meeting and this attack was done so that we remain under fear.

The police are also saying that it was a targeted attack.

Whoever the attacker was, he knew that I was going to be there and he was present with a gun.

A news report (external link) claimed that you were not present when the attack took place.

When Gauri Lankesh was killed, there was an elaborate attempt to create a conspiracy theory that Naxalites killed her and the right wing had no role in it.

As the investigation started unfolding and arrests were made, we all know who killed Gauri Lankesh.

These kinds of attempts by certain sections who support the right wing do that every time.

I am not saying that the right wing was involved in my attack.

I am not pointing fingers at anyone.

I am only saying that law and order must be restored.

Why are they (the right wingers) getting defensive?

Are they guilt driven and trying to create a counter narrative?

Some people allege that you are playing the victim card after this attack.

It is absolutely disgusting.

These are the people who are followed by the prime minister.

Now, they are trying to change the narrative -- that the attack never happened.

I had a gun pointed at me.

I saw it.

The police have accepted my statement. They have recorded my statement.

What else do I need to say?

The police will know the answer.

Are the police providing you security?

I have been demanding security, but as of now I do not have any security.

I travel all alone.

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