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A Letter To Umar Khalid, My Friend And Comrade

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Dear Umar,

The last couple of days have been difficult for all of us. I cannot sit down to imagine what you must be going through. I just hope you are safe.

It has been 2.5 years since I’ve known you. Ever since the other night, I’ve been getting constant flashbacks of our conversations.

Your words have been echoing in my head. I have been trying to stay strong, but I am not sure I have been very successful.

I feel quite shattered, helpless, and angry. It is funny because I know you have not lost hope.

You are the strongest and bravest person I know. You have given me and so many others courage, strength, and hope when we needed it the most. You stood up for all of us. It is time for us to do the same for you. We owe it to you.

In March 2018, after extensively watching a bunch of your interviews and public speeches, I ended up sending you a DM on Instagram to which I didn’t expect a reply. Little did I know that would cultivate one of the most treasured friendships in my life.
Seven days later, you did reply and followed me back. I was ecstatic. What followed was a long chat and a collaborative article for my blog.

I want to mention two things from that collaboration. You initially did not agree to do it because as a cis-man, you did not want to grab the mic and talk about something in which you lacked lived experiences. And, I remember your answer when I asked if you were a feminist. You told me you were becoming a feminist each day, becoming more aware, learning and unlearning so much but cannot claim that you are one already. These were absolutely life-changing lessons for my 17-year old self’s meaning of feminism.

Image provided by the author.

Ever since then, you have taught me so many things. About life, society, politics, activism. I am so grateful to you for everything. You have had to face a million rocks thrown at you over the last few years. My anxious self has been worried about and panicked for you. But, no matter what it was, you always had something positive to say. The JNU administration was not accepting your PhD thesis, the one for which you worked so hard. You told me, “They cannot take away what I have learned.”

There was an assassination attempt on you and you said, “Those useless fellows couldn’t even kill me.” Always with that bright smile on your face. I do not know how you do it. How are you never scared or worried? How are you so positive and hopeful? Your optimism and resilience triumph everything. Each day, I try and learn something from you.

I think this scares the ones in power the most, your courage and your fearlessness. You once told me, “The laughter of our children scares the fascists the most.” You have spoken about truth and peace. You have believed and followed the ideals of Ambedkar and Gandhi. You have loved this country and its people more than anyone. You are paying a price for all of that. You are paying a price for your name, for being a PhD scholar, and for being a brave leader with a Muslim identity.

With so much hatred around you, you have always spoken of love. I feel sorry for the people who are fabricating and believing in the lies and propaganda, calling you names. I feel sorry that they do not know you as a person. Because having you as a friend, brother, philosopher and comrade in my life is something I am so grateful for.

I am not sure if you know how much you have impacted my life and my ideas. You are funny, kind, and humble. Maybe, not that funny. Your jokes are really lame. But your humility is incomparable. You have never made me feel stupid in front of you, which is something I was so worried about. You appreciated and cheered for my writing, my campaigns, and activism. You were willing to help with anything I needed, from research in school and college assignments to relationship advice. You were the most patient listener to my midnight rants.

I know you are an atheist. But still, I will pray for you. As you once said, “In the face of injustice, our silence is as political as our act of speaking up.” No matter how insignificant a change it creates, I will continue to raise my voice. Stand up against the wrong and speak the truth. This is the only way I will be able to do justice to your friendship, comradery and teaching.

Thank you for everything. You are the bravest and most resilient person I know. You will get through this. I hope for the day when we can again laugh about my anxiety over these false charges. This too shall pass. You shall come out of it, even braver.

Love and solidarity,

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  1. Ankit Anand

    What a miracle….nowadays people are inspired by those people who wish to divide India. You didn’t see Dr.Kalam & Swami Vivekanda as an inspiration. Perhaps, there is lack of many things during your bringing up.

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