DAYS AFTER sedition cases were filed against him in several states for an anti-CAA speech he made at Aligarh Muslim University on January 16, Sharjeel Imam, a PhD student in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), was arrested from his village — Kako in Jehanabad district of Bihar — on Tuesday.
A joint team of Bihar and Delhi Police had conducted raids in Patna and Jehanabad after Imam’s last cellphone location was traced to Patna.
While the Delhi Police said they had arrested Imam “from his house”, Imam — through his advocate Mishika Singh — said, “I have surrendered to the Delhi Police on January 28… I am ready and willing to cooperate with the investigation. I have full faith in the due process of law. My safety and security are now in the hands of Delhi Police. Let peace prevail.”
According to sources, Imam was arrested when he was going to court to surrender, accompanied by his mother, Afshan Raheem, and lawyer. He was produced before a Jehanabad court before being taken on transit remand to Delhi.
V N Jha, Inspector, Delhi Police Crime Branch said, “We found him near his ancestral home in Kako… We caught him and produced him in court.”
Apart from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh have slapped sedition charges against Imam, an IIT-Bombay graduate who is pursuing PhD in Modern Indian History from JNU.
At least five teams of the Delhi Police Crime Branch were sent to Mumbai, Patna and Delhi to look for Imam. “The day the FIR was filed, a team was sent to Bihar, where he hails from. The team was in touch with Patna and Jehanabad police and was continuously conducting raids,” said Delhi Police DCP (Crime) Rajesh Deo.
Deo said that Imam’s brother, Muzammil, was interrogated on Monday, and on the basis of his interrogation “vital clues regarding Sharjeel were obtained”. “Based on the leads, the team was successful in apprehending him on Tuesday, at 2 pm. He has been arrested,” said Deo.
Imam was an active volunteer at the Shaheen Bagh protest in Delhi till January 2.
According to a purported video of his speech at AMU, Imam said: “If we have 5 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 roadblocks in Delhi, like at Shaheen Bagh, to put pressure on the government.
Imam had earlier told The Indian Express, “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.”
Reacting to his arrest, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said, “No one should try to work or speak against the nation’s interest. There are a handful of people who speak this kind of language. Having a different opinion is one thing, but speaking against the country is another thing.”
Imam’s late father, Akbar Imam, was a JD(U) leader. His uncle, Arshad Imam, is also a local JD(U) leader.
JNUTA president D K Lobiyal said Imam’s remarks “don’t warrant a charge of sedition and there are other reasons behind the sedition law being invoked”.
Meanwhile, IIT-Bombay confirmed that Imam was a student at the institute between 2006 and 2011. “He pursued a dual degree in Computer Science and Engineering and graduated in 2011,” said an IIT-Bombay spokesperson. The institute, however, said Imam was not employed as a teaching assistant.
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