Some 10 years ago, Umar Khalid’s little less known passion had led him to Kashmir. It was in Srinagar where he had dreamed to represent the state’s under-19 cricket team, even though he wasn’t a native of Jammu and Kashmir. His father, Syed Qasim Illyas Rasool, had many friends working as government officials back then and it was because of them that Umar managed to play some district level matches.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Umar wanted to play for India when he was young but with the competition in Delhi being tough, some of my friends suggested that he travels to Kashmir and play some matches there for exposure.”I am told he performed very well there and was even supported by the coaches who wanted him to represent Kashmir at state level. However being a non-Kashmiri limited his chances to represent Jammu and Kashmir team,” Syed Qasim told dna.Now a 28-year-old, and a student of the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University, Umar finds his fate intertwined with that of Kashmir.A sedition case was filed against unknown persons for allegedly participating in “anti-national” activities and Umar was one of the persons which Delhi police accuses of raising anti-India slogans during an event organised to mark the hanging of 2001 Parliament convict Afzal Guru.His father however seems to be sure that Umar was not the one raising slogans. ” I know my son and his ideology very well. We have had multiple discussion in the past and one thing that I am sure of is that my son never has or never will go against the interests of the people of India,” said Qasim.He said the days his son had ‘disappeared’ were some of the most disturbing ones in his life. “He was being projected as someone dangerous. We received death threats and what not. Friends of my youngest daughter have stopped talking to her and my other daughters have received all sorts of threats but my biggest fear was of Umar getting caught by a mob just like the one that attacked Kanhaiya,” Qasim added.Qasim said that initially his family was reluctant to speak to the media but soon he had made up his mind. “It was important for me to counter lies like Umar had traveled to Pakistan or that he is a Jaish sympathiser,” he said.Qasim added that he would have found such allegations funny had it not been seriousness of the issue. This is because of the fact Umar has for years been an atheist and a communist – something which his family continues to disapprove.According to the family the Batla house encounter and the subsequent stereotyping of the Muslims of Jamia Nagar area had prompted Umar to critique identity politics.”We had many arguments but I wasn’t concerned because I felt he was young. Umar’s mother however was a different story altogether,” Qasim said.Umar’s mother who hasn’t been interacting with the media as much opened up to dna after meeting her eldest child at the RK Puram police station on Sunday.”I wanted him to come back to Islam but he wouldn’t agree. First we had many discussions and debates which were followed by arguments and finally I stopped speaking to him directly. My relatives suggested that I shouldn’t boycott him and I also believed so but I couldn’t see my child so far removed from out family,” said Umar’s mother is a Bachelor of Unani Medicine & Surgery doctor.Umar began to have heated arguments with Muslim leaders.”Whenever Umar saw anyone trouble he would jump to his feet to help but he didn’t want himself to be only recognised as a Muslim. He would tell us and the community leaders to stand with the poor of this country, with the Dalits, with minorities and the oppressed women,” said the mother. “Never had I imagined he would get into so much trouble for speaking his mind,” she added.She said on January 29, Umar had come home to attend the engagement ceremony of one of her five sisters. This was her last meeting with her son before finally getting to see him in jail.”I didn’t talk to him much that day even though I desperately wanted to do so. After guests had left, I pulled him back and told him that his nails were long and they needed to be cut. He placed his hands in mine and when I was done cutting the nails, I proceeded to touch his feet. A parent touching the feet of her child made him uncomfortable and he began saying that he will wear socks to conceal the long nails. But I told him to be quite,” said Umar’s mother trying to hold back her tears.”I won’t cry because Umar has been telling us not to do so. His aunt, grandmother, everyone are worried but Umar has been asking me to tell them not to worry,” she said.When asked what else had Umar told her during the visit to the police station she said,”Be brave. He told me to be brave.
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