Updated: July 22, 2020 8:39:05 am
Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) PhD student Sharjeel Imam, lodged in Guwahati Central Jail for an alleged inflammatory speech at an anti-CAA protest last year, tested positive for the novel coronavirus Tuesday.
Dasarath Das, Assam’s Inspector General (IG) of Prisons, confirmed the development to The Indian Express. He said that till now at least 435 inmates of the Guwahati Central Jail — which houses a little over 1,000 prisoners — have tested positive.
Imam was arrested and brought to the state after his comments calling for Assam to be “cut off” from the rest of the country — which he had explained as a call for “chakka jam”. He was initially an active volunteer at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
He is accused of conducting “inflammatory and instigating speeches” against the government on the CAA and National Register for Citizens (NRC) and was booked under IPC sections 124A (sedition), 153A and 505.
Earlier, activist Akhil Gogoi — and his associates Bittu Sonowal and Dhairjya Konwar — lodged with Imam in the Guwahati jail tested positive for Covid-19.
Gogoi, Sonowal and Konwar are all booked by NIA on charges of sedition and under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for allegedly being overground workers of the banned CPI (Maoist) soon after the anti-CAA protests broke out in Assam in December last year.
Former Bodo insurgent leader Ranjan Daimary too tested positive in the same jail.
Meanwhile, the Assam Human Rights Commission has taken cognisance of a complaint made by the Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly, Debabrata Saikia, regarding the spread of Covid in the Guwahati jail. On Monday, the Commission ordered the Chief Secretary of Assam and the IG of Prisons to submit a report by August 5.
Last week, Assam’s Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma visited the jail and medical and all other facilities. “I have instructed officials to ensure best medical care, food and other facilities,” he tweeted after the visit.
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