A day after sedition cases were filed in Assam and UP against Sharjeel Imam, a PhD student in JNU, for an anti-CAA speech he made at Aligarh Muslim University on January 16, charges under the same offence were slapped against him in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Delhi.
Police in Delhi and UP, meanwhile, have started conducting searches to trace Imam. Aligarh SSP Akash Kulhary said two teams are conducting searches in different areas of Delhi. “We are working closely with Delhi Police and should be able to find him soon,” said Kulhary.
Delhi Police have sent a team to Bihar to look for Imam. Jehanabad SP Maneesh said local police assisted a team from Delhi in conducting searches Sunday morning at Iman’s village Kako. Imam’s three relatives were detained for about four hours and released, said sources.
Delhi Police’s DCP (Crime) Rajesh Deo said that “it was noticed that one Sharjeel Imam, a permanent resident of Bihar and student of JNU, has been delivering very inflammatory and instigatory speeches in his opposition to CAA and NRC. He had previously delivered one such speech in Jamia on December 13 and thereafter has given one even more inflammatory and instigatory speech against the government, which is being widely circulated on social media.”
Deo said that these speeches have the potential to “harm the religious harmony between different religious segments of the society and the unity and integrity of India.”
The officer said that a case under IPC sections 124 (speech or writings against the government), 153A (promoting religious enmity) and 505 (statements provoking public mischief) has been registered against Imam by the SIT Crime branch.
In videos of his speech, Imam can be heard calling for stepping up the protests in Assam through road blocks to force the Centre to listen.
In Arunachal, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu tweeted: “This kind of provocation inciting secession of Assam and other NE states from rest of India, creating communal disharmony, hampering sovereignty and territorial integrity of India will not be tolerated. Crime branch Itanagar have registered Case no.2/2020 U/S124(A)/153(A)153(B) IPC.”
Manipur Chief Minister M N Biren Singh said that a similar case was filed in his state. “Taking cognisance of the objectionable video of Mr Sharjeel Imam, co-organiser of Shaheen Bagh protests, in which he threatened to sever Northeast from the rest of country, the Manipur Police has filed an FIR under sections 121/121-A/124-A/ 120-B /153 IPC.”
Imam, who is pursuing PhD in Modern Indian History, did his graduation from IIT-Bombay in computer science. He was briefly associated with the Shaheen Bagh protests in Delhi as a volunteer but left that on January 2.
On Saturday, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra had claimed that Imam had made the speech in question at Shaheen Bagh on January 24. Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had called Imam “the main organiser of the Shaheen Bagh protests”. Union Minister Jitendra Singh had also slammed Imam over his comments.
In a video of the speech, Imam gave the example of a Kanhaiya Kumar rally in Bihar, where “around five lakh people turned up”, and said, “If we have five lakh people with us, we can cut off the Northeast from India. If not permanently, for one or two months. Put rubble on tracks and roads...Assam aur India katke alag ho jaaye, tabhi ye humari baat sunenge (Once Assam is cut off, then only they will listen to us)…We can do that because the Chicken’s Neck corridor (connecting Northeast to rest of India) is dominated by Muslims.”
He also called for more roads in Delhi to be blocked, like at Shaheen Bagh, to put pressure on the government.
Speaking to The Indian Express Saturday, Imam had said: “I was saying we should try to peacefully block roads wherever possible. In that context, I said you have to block roads going to Assam. It was basically a call for chakka jam.”
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