Banojyotsna Lahiri (left) with Sumedha Mittal from Newslaundry.

‘Keeping hope alive a struggle’: Banojyotsna on Umar Khalid’s incarceration, political upheaval post 2014

Umar Khalid has been in jail for three years after his arrest under UAPA in a Delhi riots case.

WrittenBy:NL Team

Banojyotsna Lahiri is a Delhi-based researcher and the partner of incarcerated activist and former JNU scholar Umar Khalid. Khalid was arrested by the Delhi police in September 2020 and charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act over his alleged role in the communal riots that broke out in northeast Delhi in January of that year.   

Imprisoned for more than three years now, the trial in Umar’s case is yet to begin. While Karkardooma Court and the Delhi High Court have dismissed his bail petitions, his plea at the top court has been adjourned at least seven times since May. 

In this conversation with Newslaundry’s Sumedha Mittal, Banojyotsna speaks about her relationship with Umar, surviving the difficult times, the upheaval in India’s political scenario, and the implications of Umar’s incarceration on his family. 

The research scholar says the couple began dating casually in 2013, but their “relationship changed, as the political environment of the country changed.” She talks about coming “face-to-face with fascism in 2016”, and how threats came alive with the assassination attempt on Umar. 

She says these “unprecedented” times have brought them closer, and that Umar is only one of the many forces of democracy that are under attack. “There is hope. We are not hopeless…but keeping hope alive is a struggle,” says Banojyotsna. She adds that she and Umar have struck a deal to be happy “no matter how sordid and difficult” the times. 

She also talks about Umar’s time in jail, the books he reads, his plans to write a jail memoir, their weekly meetings, and the political climate of the country.   


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