Khauf se Azaadi: Umar Khalid stares at death ahead of talk on fear

Fear is the key to shutting up people who speak inconvenient truth to power. Shut up or we’ll shut you up—that’s the message behind the attack on JNU student activist Umar Khalid in the heart of Delhi

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter
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IPA/Sushil Kutty

James Hadley Chase wrote Fear is the Key, a thriller which featured a Red Indian protagonist who, to get going on a career in crime, came to the conclusion that the key to demanding ransom is to put the fear of death in people with cash to spare. But how do you inject fear? The answer: How about killing a couple of fat cats? With that sort of blood-sport, safes will open!

So the “Injun” struck. A couple of the moneyed were shot dead in broad daylight and the message went viral: Do, or die! The comma made all the difference. Fear is the Key became a bestseller, vintage Chase. Hadley Chase spent part of his life on the subcontinent and never set foot in the United States, which is where his crime thrillers were set.

Now we hear that there is this gangster Ravi Poojary, who has got hold of the Injun-trick—fear is the key! Apparently, the “Mafia Don” has threatened to kill not one but three political in-the-news activists who have positioned themselves firmly in the anti-Hindutva camp, firebrands who hold a candle for the “oppressed and threatened”.

Shehla Rashid Shora, Umar Khalid and Jignesh Mevani are household names, thanks to “Speechist” Kanhaiya Kumar, whose boyish looks hide a revolutionary brand. ‘Don’ Poojary has told Shehla to “shut up or we’ll shut you up” and, “if you don’t mind, will you please pass on the threat to Umar Khalid and Jignesh!”

Umar Khalid, after staring at death, eye to eye, wants police protection. Jignesh Mevani is MLA and is on another level altogether. As for Shehla Rashid Shora, she’s made of sterner stuff. She has refused to “shut up”, and has, like Chase, the uncanny ability to “see” and read people from a distance

Rashid has lodged an FIR in Srinagar—Shehla is a Kashmiri. But she was a little late in passing on the message to Khalid, or maybe the Poojary threat reached her late, after the attempt to shoot dead Umar Khalid was already attempted, outside the compound of the Constitution Club of India in New Delhi; where, if he’s to be believed, he is on the “endangered” list. Now, he is scared. Naturally, anybody would be.

Let’s be clear, a gun to the face or the chest can be the scariest thing on earth. You either wet the floor or you grab the gun. Umar Khalid grabbed the gun. Helped by three friends, he grappled with the gunman but couldn’t get a good grip on the slippery fellow who let go of the gun and fled the spot.

For tense minutes, Umar Khalid’s life hung in balance. Shehla’s comrade and Kanhaiya’s pal says for a horrible moment he felt like Gauri Lankesh, like “the moment had arrived!” But, thank the Almighty, he did not end up like Lankesh, dead on the inquest slab. The gunman failed and, if his boss is anybody like Gabbar Singh, must be dead—ab tera kya hoga, kaaliya!

The failed assassin’s “face” is captured on CCTV and the Delhi Police says it’s just a matter of time before he’s caught. Investigations are on even as ‘Don’ Ravi Poojary has now lent a twist to the murder attempt on Khalid. Is the runaway fugitive a Poojary hit-man?

The “Poojary message” to Shora says, “Just shut your mouth or we will shut your mouth forever. Tell Umar Khalid and Jignesh Mevani also. …Mafia don Ravi Poojary.” Shehla posted a screenshot of the threat on Twitter with “Meanwhile, got this death threat from rightwing Hindutvawadi fundamentalist Ravi Poojary. He warns Umar Khalid, Jignesh Mevani and me to shut up!”


Umar Khalid, after staring at death, eye to eye, wants police protection. Jignesh Mevani is MLA and is on another level altogether. As for Shehla Rashid Shora, she’s made of sterner stuff. She has refused to “shut up”, and has, like Chase, the uncanny ability to “see” and read people from a distance.

Otherwise, how else did she identify Ravi Poojary as a card-carrying “rightwing Hindutvawadi fundamentalist”? Poojary’s name has cropped up in several threats to personalities in Mumbai, including filmy bigwigs but the real dons—Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel—regard him as a tinhorn gambler and ‘tatpoonjiya’ not worthy of the title ‘don’.

The Delhi Police is investigating the attack on Umar Khalid and the police in Srinagar will look at Rashid’s FIR. Till then, James Hadley Chase’s Fear is the Key will rule. The police will try to nab the ‘Injun’ before he does real damage. Incidentally, the programme Umar Khalid was to speak at the Constitution Club was titled ‘Khauf Se Azaadi’ – ‘Freedom from Fear’, the dead opposite of ‘Fear is the Key’!

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