According to an eyewitness, Khalid and some others were standing at a nearby tea stall when the man approached him, pushed him and opened fire with a pistol. However, the bullet missed as Khalid slipped.
Ashish Pandey, who works at an office nearby, said he saw the suspect approach Khalid while he and others were near the club’s gate. “The man had a pistol in his hand. The moment Khalid spotted him, he grabbed him, possibly to disarm him,” said Pandey.
As they grappled, Khalid fell and lost his spectacles. But his two male friends tried to overpower the suspect while a woman accompanying him raised an alarm. “The man then began running away. He managed to cross the road, but slipped and fell,” said Pandey, adding that the shot was fired at that moment.
Speaking to reporters after the spine chilling day light incident, Khalid said he was going back inside the Constitution Club complex after having tea when somebody tried to fire at him, terming it was “ironic that it happened as I have come to participate in an event against mob lynching”.
“One person came from behind, pushed me down and tried to fire at me. I ran for my life. He fled from there,” he said, adding that he could not see the face of the attacker.
“There is an atmosphere of fear. If you speak against the government you will be branded and then anything could happen to you,” said Khalid, who was one of the three Jawaharlal Nehru University students arrested in connection with an event held on February 9, 2016, on campus in which anti-national slogans were allegedly raised.
He also admitted that he was “very scared” at the moment when the assailant “pointed the gun” at him. “At that moment, I was reminded of what happened to Gauri Lankesh and I thought that (last) moment has arrived,” he said before he was whisked away by the police.
Madhur Verma, deputy commissioner of police (New Delhi), said it was still unclear if any shot was fired, but said that a bullet was found stuck in the pistol’s chamber. Though the assailant was seen by multiple people, he has remained unidentified.
Another eyewitness who identified himself as Santosh, said the suspect had fired in the air. Two stall owners near the club also remembered hearing a sound that resembled a “tyre burst”.
Ajay Choudhary, joint commissioner of police (New Delhi Range), said some of the “best officers” have been tasked with identifying and nabbing the suspect and multiple police teams have been constituted.
“We are speaking to Khalid, his friends and eyewitnesses. We are also checking the CCTV footage,” said Chaudhary, adding that the organisers of the programme had not informed the local police about the function.
The attack drew condemnation from various quarters. The Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) called the attack “culmination of the hate-filled propaganda spewed by the Modi government” against all those who have questioned this regime.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted: “Wage a motivated hate campaign against individuals & sooner or later someone will feel emboldened enough to take the law in to their own hands. The attack on @UmarKhalidJNU is the direct result of the relentless hate campaign using both social & mainstream media. Glad he’s well.”
Delhi University student and author Gurmehar Kaur, who had been trolled online for raising her voice against campus violence and calling for peace with Pakistan, said: “I want to say I’m shocked and surprised but I’m not. It was only time the online mob came out on the streets. And God forbid something happens tomorrow to someone the blood will be on our hands for not condemning the hatred enough.”
Actress and JNU alumnus Swara Bhasker also posted on Twitter, “What are we becoming?!???!? A lawless anarchic state of affairs.. so damaging to our institutions and credibility at a responsible State. Even if you don’t like umar’s views! #UmarKhalid.”