A letter to Umar Khalid: Pallavi Paul

Guest Post by Pallavi Paul

Dear Umar,

My name is Pallavi Paul and like you I am a PhD student at JNU.

I write this letter to apologize to you. What thoughts must be crossing your mind and that of your family, friends and comrades- as bloodthirsty, jingoist goons are on a shameless head hunt for you and your friends. I apologize to you for the poverty of imagination of a state that brands you as anti-national, while continues to trample on the rights and bodies of those living within its borders from Pulwama to New Delhi to Hyderabad. I apologize to you that you find yourself in a society where to echo the feelings of thousands of Kashmiris, to think of yourself as first devoted to the idea of justice before any arbitrary construct of the nation, to be moved by suffering, to critique capital punishment – is considered an act of terrorism. In a beautiful post on Facebook your sister lovingly called you a “communist paagal”. I apologize to you that this current oppressive climate is too cramped for your magical madness. The imagination of a beautiful world which has place not only for sangh certified, brahminically privileged, self- affirming ‘Indian-ness’, but for everyone who has found themselves left outside of this fold- the landless, the stateless, those without the protections of caste, class, religion, gender or nation.

What a wonderful name you chose for the event on the 9th of February – Country Without A Post Office. After, one of Agha Shahid Ali’s most haunting works, which references a time in the 1990s when no letters were delivered to Kashmir. There was no way for people to talk to or hear one another. You chose to think about the punishment accorded to Afsal Guru, along with this history. Your efforts to create a conversation, a debate on what it means to take a human life, is today being branded as evidence of your anti-nationalism. I apologize to you for the amnesia and the fragile ego of this country, which is unable to revisit its history without a shred of doubt or criticality. Where the only way to serve the cause of the country is by mouthing its praises and letting it rot in its own status quo and not by bringing to it newer questions, possibilities and challenges.

Many television channels like Times Now, News X, Zee have been ruthless and vicious in trying to establish links between you and terrorist organizations like the Jaish- e- Mohammad. I am sorry that you are living in a country where your name makes it so easy for this connection to be made. While comrade Kanhaiya is still in Police Custody fighting the preposterous charge of sedition, even as I write this to you- he has at the very minimum the assurance that he will not be linked to an Islamist Terrorist Organization. You, dear Umar do not even have that. Even that you are a self proclaimed atheist is not guarantee against prejudiced links being made between the religion you were born into and your political beliefs. That you made a choice outside of religion and the various forms of violence that its fundamentalist interpretations throw up, has been drowned in the noise being whipped up by vigilante, self proclaimed ‘nationalists’.

Like every storm this too will pass. The arrogance of this regime will be its undoing. Today there is a report in the Hindu, where the Central Government has denied receiving any report linking you to terrorist outfits. It is being widely shared on social media with the hashtag #weareumarkhalid. We know that your social media account has been hacked , but be assured that many voices are also rising in your support. I do not know when or whether you will be able to read this letter, but I hope that whenever we meet we will be able to celebrate freedom, justice and the spirit of critique. The seasons will change and the breeze will blow more merrily.

Take care of yourself dear comrade, the struggle is on.

Lal Salaam!

Pallavi Paul is a filmmaker and a PhD candidate at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

22 thoughts on “A letter to Umar Khalid: Pallavi Paul”

  1. Thank you so much for this dear pallavi. In the din of this madness to prove who is more nationalist, JNU ditched Umar Khalid. They left to the devices of a brutal state and condemned him for being irresponsible and unconstitutional. His whole Muslim body is unconstitutional for them. JNU disowned a student who stood for what their foundation is: debate, dissent and critical look at economic, political and social structure. The hollow slogans of save JNU have killed Umar Khalid!


    1. Dear ‘Unconstitutional’. The #StandwithJNU students and their friends have not by any means abandoned either Umar Khalid or anyone else. People may have differences with some of his stances, I certainly do, but that does not mean that he is being abandoned. The #StandwithJNU will stand with all JNU students who are being persecuted, and hunted. And he is not being supported, or abandoned, because he is a Muslim. Just as the other students who are still being hunted, are not being supported because they are not Muslim. They are being supported, simply because they are students, and as students, they deserve our unqualified solidarity.


  2. Fundementalists and their supportive media are out to do anything rigt from fabrication of ideas to false taped videos to establish the non-event as an event, non-terrorist as terrorist. Further, in the name of prime-time debates, the anchors are brainwashing the viewers with four or five participants, most of hem being from BKp, VHP, RSS, Congress and oneanalysist -probably independent- who is overshowed by the other three wings of the same fundemental hindu ideology. We never get to see fair and impartial debates. Even ‘neutral’ anchors brazenly take sides. One ahould be very careful…!


  3. Thanks for this, U r absolutely right, Media has already announced verdict without proper inquiry, trial, etc. (like Mohammad Afzal’s case), that Umar Khalid is linked to Naxalites, Jaish, etc. they easily labelled a student of different thought group as traitor, Deshdrohi, etc. they are showing DSU as anti-national group. anyway “बोल के लब आज़ाद हैं तेरे”


    1. for ur kind info…i apologises for the death of 690 pandits from 1988-2016.. but why about the 8000kashmiri youth who still are missing what abt the 6000 unmarked graves who will apologise for thm.


      1. If apologizing is as simple as writing a line, then I apologize for the killing of Kashmiri youth. Do you feel less biter now?


  4. Thank you Pallavi for writing about Umar Khalid. One’s nationalism cannot be defined by what the ruling establishment and its satellite organizations force us to think. This persecution is absolutely reprehensible.


  5. I will just like to point out that JNU has not ditched Umar by any means. I have spoken to teachers and student leaders, and the single biggest concern they have is for umar and other students. They know Kanhaiya will be released and will be back sooner or later. the thing is that the way in which mass hysteria has been whipped up, many are praying that he does not surface now for his own good.


  6. Umer Khali and Kanhaiya both are the heros. It is the time India has shown how united we are when it comes to justice.
    We will fight together and rise together against these sanghi terrorists.


  7. Hi khalid ,we know the prolonged pain of kashmiris,but who is accountable for ,no one or every one,it is complicated,but remedy of pain was much needed things. you go for it,Good


  8. Hi Pallavi, I am a bystander being pulled into different direction by the flood of different information directed at me. Freedom of speech is one of the fundamental rights and even if I find it uncomfortable as an indian to view kashmir’s separation as an idea, I am ready to be uncomfortable. Even if I am uncomfortable as an indian to comprehend Afzal Guru who was involved in violent attack on parliament as a martyr, I am ready to be uncomfortable. Even if as a privileged Indian I find it difficult to digest naxalite ideology, I am ready to be uncomfortable. I am ready for all and everyone’s opinions that make me very very uncomfortable, I can even try to understand and acknowledge the sanity and rightfulness of those opinions. But I can not understand the violent actions of people, violent sloganeering to destroy and destruct that is not just uncomfortable, it is unsafe. The promise that terrorism will continue, the promise will India will be broken to pieces, pledging alliance with a country whose rulers have never stopped and are highly unlikely to stop exporting terrorism, a country that itself is not in a ideal state, to hear that we want to follow an example of that. So lets find a balance between whats uncomfortable and what is unsafe. Lets not go to a different extreme. Lets have dialogues and debates, not hurl provocative slogans. That is just stupid and unsafe for a whole lot of us. I of course feel the way this has been handled is equally stupid. Lets not be stupid.


    1. Finally, a sane comment. This country is not without a post-office…making the country look like a fragile entity that they will break with their activism while drawing strength from country’s democracy is an amazing idea, a scholar can have ! While how the case was handled can be criticized …if Kanhaiyya is innocent, he too should be supported. But how come holding such events get the scholars’ approval is beyond my understanding. Nation can be criticized, but how can one be a party, a spectator to such slogans wishing for…we know what. Yet to come across any apology or regret from the people supporting the event..ohh yes..now Kanhaiiya says, what happened was unfortunate. while JNU must fight to defy the defamation and shutdown cries…and be with the students…such ideas shouldnt be encouraged. Fragmentary forces gain strength from it…also..the anger of people for such slogans is not misplaced…rights are not unconditional…there are other ways to protest..now i can see people even carrying TRICOLOR..whther or not Umar or Kanhaiiya are culprits which the law will decide..what is unfortunate is there were many more there…either raising such slogans or not minding them…


    2. Seriously. finally a sane comment.
      I am a regular Indian citizen not aware of all the facts( of current scenario and history) so i cant argue who is right or wrong. but i do want to put my only point here… just one.. without debating anything, ” if anyone shouts or conspire against my holy land that person is a bloody disgrace to my nation and definitely a terrorist”.
      I love my country i was born here which feeds me giving me the definition of being a human being.If there are some flaws, i will get into the system(becoming civil service officer) to rectify it, there i will fight(not by slogans or shouts but a proper bureaucrat way) with everyone to make it right.

      Do u guys(the JNU protestar, not u dear) really think, shouting slogans and reminding what has happened in past will correct the current scenario? seriously? I believe u might be highly intelligent person in academics (no doubt about that, i appreciate that) but a serious moron in front of a common citizen like me.

      lastly one point for the article writer miss pallavi (I hope i wrote the name correctly), u said this above ” I apologize to you for the amnesia and the fragile ego of this country, which is unable to revisit its history without a shred of doubt or criticality”

      U have apologised to Mr. Khalid on behalf of the whole nation for its amnesic and egoistic nature. I appreciate your words but i guess u r too attached to the fact of being a fighter or a supporter of a fighter, doesnt matter if its done for the nation or against the nation(nothing personal i just thought what u really meant by this letter). But seriously tell me, i am so curious, who made u the representative of the nation plus how can u be so naive and judgemental deciding on nature of the whole nation based on some bunch of people.

      Anyway, supporting just one cause or a person shows how personal u r in ur nature.
      If u want defend Mr. Khalid, get a good lawyer or become a good lawyer/judge to save many innocent Khalids (if he is innocent)

      “Save a country not a moron person cause we already see so many soldiers die everyday who are actually fighting to save our country”


  9. #supportJNU #UMARKHALID
    and #palvi mam… i really appreciate you and your sense of humour.


  10. Correction. Umar Khalid is not Kashmiri. He belongs to Amravati in Maharshtra and his aprents stay in DDelhi. Typical sterotyping by the author


  11. The romanticism of freedom.

    That lets free Kasmir…and also North east…

    Lets free Punjab and South India…from white supramacist…

    Lets apologise for India…

    Lets also carve another piece for left out Muslim population in India.

    And Bengal needs identity too..so we can make Bengal as another country.

    Lets do all that…

    And change the name of whatever left…so there is no identity left of this shameful piece of land we call our motherland.

    Lets do that as early as possible.

    All for freedom.


  12. Pallavi,

    You write well but are obviously not wise between the ears enough to utilize your time constructively enough for the betterment of this country (something I guess you guys stand for albeit with your failed ideology of leftist theories?).

    I suggest you and your merry band (umar included), spend some time introspecting where you are, what you have, and what your alternative could’ve been had you been in Iraq or older Bosnia and the likes.

    The plight of your brethren is directly proportional to their foolishness (follies of youth, maybe), they had the opportunity to get an education, evolve, get a job, live a life (utilize proceeds for the betterment of society, if they wanted to be a positive influence in society). Instead they chose a failed ideology, indulged in politics, ran into stronger hands, and are now suffering.

    I suggest you to write another open letter to your comrades imploring them to utilize the energy of youth to get productive, find a job, help others monetarily or by deeds (like how a lot of us are already doing), and leave ideologies, politics and brow beating to the politicians. PhD students, but no one taught you a simple lesson- “you can never win against the house”.

    Fill yourselves with positivity, chase dreams, have fun, you’re all still young, make mistakes, live a full and fulfilling life with collective collaborative approaches to societal transformation. None of that requires demanding human rights for a terrorist. Am proud we spent crores to give that faggot kasab a trial, shows what we stand for. The alternatives are not something you will enjoy. (Try dissent in Cuba, China, North Korea or any of the Islamic nations and you’ll know what I mean). Respect the country for what it is. Feeling for the downtrodden need not be confused with blaming the nation.

    Be a torch bearer, anyone can lift a fire, how different are you and your comrades? Am sad to know my tax money is being utilized to subsidize education for misguided youth. Surely your ilk can find million other was to help out the country (assuming thats the intention to begin with) than wasting time making public spectacles.
    Umars doing his doctorate on Tribals in jharkand? How about spending time/money to alleviatw milliom issues that plague tribals, from vocational education to sanitation to social integration? And he (and “comrades”) only found Afzal Gurus hanging as an issue?
    Get your priorities right, because if this (these youth) is the future of our country, god help us.
    Millions will go helpless because our doctoral Brains are busy sloganeering over a non issue for some faggot who got hanged instead of being productive enough to bring about genuine positive transformation.

    Apologies for the typos, using a handheld. Peace out. (By the way, if its about posturing, lal salaam sounds stupid, try hasta la Victoria siempre..has much better ring to it. There’s your food for thought).


  13. Anti India sloganeering is a shame. Umar Khalid and the rest who are justifying this act are shameless and must be punished as per Indian constitution and law. Pallavi Paul or whoever you are, you are mentally sick and will need a doctor for your counseling. God bless this great country. India is one and will remain one., You perverts have no shame and will continue to demean my great country. Shameless!! We also have right for freedom of expression. So I express my freedom of speech. Umar Khalid and the rest of junta who are raising anti india slogans don’t eat Indian food, don’t take any benefit that India provides, do not touch the soil toiled by our farmers. You are shameless and pathetic. Jai Hind!!Jai Bharath!!


  14. Dear Pallavi,
    We don’t know each other, but I m writing this post only to congratulate you for the excellent letter n show my moral support for Umar, Kanahiya and all fighters if JNU. All the best. Keep it up.
    Best wishes
    Shyamal Ganguly
    Salt Lake, Kolkata


  15. I appreciate that you guys find my comment “sane”, but since you have replied over my comment and not independently, I don’t endorse your views, they seem again extreme to me, I find what this bunch of student mob has done “stupid” and unnecessarily “provocative” but I don’t think its terrorism or they should be branded as one. I don’t think anyone has any right to beat them up, I don’t think “holy land” is equally holy for everyone.

    All I’d like to hear instead of “India ki barbadi tak jung rahegi” is ” Kashmir ko hum abaad karenge” & instead ” Har ghar se afzal niklega” please pledge “Kisi ko afzal banne ki zaroorat na hogi”. Inciting violence would make matters worse. We all love our country inspite of our different ideologies, but can we ever overlook the fact that most of us don’t live privileged lives? Some of us face discrimination, injustice, corruption in a greater degree than every one of us. Lets not beat people who raise issues, lets not ban them, brand them, lets work instead collectively for correction in the system. Lets be good to each other. Lets find a balance.


We look forward to your comments. Comments are subject to moderation as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s