Former student arrested over Delhi riots, to activists’ fury

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian police arrested a former student leader on Monday for his alleged role in deadly riots in the capital New Delhi earlier this year, to the anger of rights activists.

Umar Khalid, a former student politician who has frequently criticised the Indian government, is accused of being a “conspirator” in communal riots in Delhi in February that left over 50 people dead and thousands displaced.

Khalid was arrested after 11 hours of interrogation by the elite “special cell” of Delhi’s police force, according to a statement published on his official Facebook page in the early hours of Monday morning.

“The fairytale narrative that (Delhi Police) has been spinning, criminalising protests in the garb of investigating riots, find(s) yet another victim,” the statement said.

Anil Mittal, a Delhi police spokesman, did not respond to a request for comment, and Khalid could not be reached for comment.

Kunal Kamra, a high-profile comedian and activist, said in a tweet he was “shattered, broken, helpless and tired” after Khalid’s arrest.

The Hindu-Muslim riots in February followed several months of protests – some of which turned violent – against a new citizenship law that critics say discriminates against India’s minority Muslims.

India’s federal government, led by Hindu-nationalist prime minister Narendra Modi, rejects this, saying the laws are required to safeguard the rights of religious minorities in South Asia.

In one affected area in Delhi, where two large mosques and dozens of Muslim houses surrounding it were torched, houses with Hindu symbols on them were largely left untouched. Some 2,000 people are believed to have been displaced, the overwhelming majority of them Muslim.

The government has largely blamed Muslims and left-wing activists for the violence before and during the riots, including members of an opposition party currently governing Delhi.

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