Sharjeel Imam, a PhD student at Jawarharlal Nehru University who has been charged with sedition for his allegedly inflammatory remarks during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), was arrested by the Delhi Police in Bihar's Jehanabad on Tuesday afternoon.
While the police stated that Imam was arrested in a joint operation by the Delhi Police and Bihar Police, Imam said that he had surrendered and was willing to cooperate with the investigation.
Imam was booked for sedition after a purported video of a speech he delivered during an anti-CAA protest at the Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh on 16 January went viral. In the 40-minute long video, he can be heard as saying that if he can organise five lakh people, "it would be possible to permanently cut off Assam from the rest of India".
He added, "If not permanently, then at least for a few months... only then the government will hear our voice. We can do that because the Chicken’s Neck corridor (connecting the North East to rest of India) is dominated by Muslims.”
An FIR was registered against Imam by Delhi Police reportedly on 25 January under IPC sections 124 A (sedition) and 153 A (promoting or attempting to promote disharmony or feelings of enmity on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever) among others.
While Imam clarified that he was referring to a 'chakka jam' which is the blocking of roads, the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police claimed to have had launched search operations in Delhi, Mumbai, and Bihar after multiple FIRs were filed against the JNU scholar in at least five states.
The police said that they are also investigating Imam for a speech made on 13 December at the Jamia Millia Islamia university and another speech on 16 January at Aligarh Muslim University. Notably, both the universities have been at the centre of the anti-CAA protests.
On Tuesday, Rajesh Deo, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, said, "Two videos came to light, one was on 13 December at Jamia Milia Islamia and other was on 16 January at Aligarh, where it was noticed that Imam had delivered very inflammatory speeches in opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens and such comments can potentially affect religious harmony and weaken the unity and integrity of the country."
The search, according to the police, concluded with his arrest on Tuesday, when the police took him into custody from his hometown, Koka, in the Jehanabad district.
Jehanabad Superintendent of Police Manish Kumar was quoted as saying that police had raided Imam's ancestral house in Kako on 26 January, but that Imam was not found.
Police officials questioned his brother, Muzzamil, and based on the information provided by him, Imam was "nabbed in a joint operation" by Bihar and Delhi Police, PTI reported. Imam was later produced in court which granted the Delhi Police his transit remand for 36 hours.
According to the police, Imam was spotted in a video on 25 January attending an anti-CAA rally in Bihar. "A Crime Branch team was sent to Bihar on the same day. They were in touch with Patna and Jehanabad Police and were continuously conducting raids. On Monday, Imam's brother Muzzamil was interrogated. On the basis of the interrogation, information regarding Imam were obtained, following which he was apprehended around 2 pm on Tuesday," Deo said, adding that he would be brought to the National Capital and later produced in Saket Court.
The SIT of Crime Branch, which is also investigating three cases related to clashes on 13 December and 15 December in Delhi, will analyse if his speeches had played any role in inciting the violence, the police added.
However, one of Imam's lawyers, advocate Mishika Singh was quoted by PTI as saying that Imam had surrendered and was willing to cooperate in the investigation.
Imam was one of the organisers of the Shaheen Bagh protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Delhi. Hundreds of women have conducted a sit-in against the contentious law for over a month in the Shaheen Bagh area of the National Capital, becoming one of the prominent symbols of the nationwide protests.
However, the protesters distanced themselves from Imam's comments and said that no single person could be called the organiser. "The woman have led the protest and it is unfair to associate their voice with any distorted media narrative," the statement said.
Imam's arrest drew several political reactions, with Home Minister Amit Shah saying that his statements on Assam were "more dangerous" than the statements made by former JNU Students Union president, Kanhaiya Kumar. Shah was referring to a 2016 case of sedition against Kumar.
Speaking at an event in Chhattisgarh's Raipur, Shah also said Sharjeel has been arrested by Delhi Police and is being brought to Delhi to be put behind bars. "See his (Sharjeel's) statement. Have you seen the video of (the speech of) Sharjeel? It is more dangerous than Kanhaiya Kumar's statement," he said.
"He (Sharjeel) is talking about cutting off the Chicken's Neck to disintegrate Assam from India. Even seven generations would not be able to do that," Shah said. The Chicken's Neck is a narrow stretch of land of about 22 kilometres in West Bengal that connects the northeastern states to the rest of India, with Nepal and Bangladesh lying on either side of the corridor.
A graduate in computer science from IIT-Mumbai, Imam had shifted to Delhi for pursuing research at the Centre for Historical Studies at the JNU.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Jan 29, 2020 00:25:05 IST