Sharjeel Imam, a ‘quiet, bright’ student now in the limelight
Sharjeel Imam’s house in Bihar’s Kako village turned into a police fortress on Tuesday.
About 75 kms south of Patna, the village is well known for Sufi saint Bibi Kamal’s shrine. The 32-year-old’s arrest threw it once again into the spotlight.
Outside his house, Imam’s mother on Tuesday said her son was being framed for something taken out of context.
“He cannot do anything wrong,” she said on Tuesday. “The media distorted his statements and now the police are unnecessarily harassing my family.”
Imam’s younger brother Muzzammil Imam (25) was one of the leaders leading the protests against Citizenship Amendment Act at Jehanabad. He was detained by police on Tuesday morning.
Imam’s father Akbar Imam had once contested the 2005 Assembly elections with a JD(U) ticket but lost.
“Imam saheb was considered close to chief minister Nitish Kumar. He died five years back,” a resident of Imam’s village said.
Sharjeel Imam studied at a prominent private school in Patna where teachers remember him as a studious boy.
“He is a very bright student. I remember he joined the school in 1994. He cleared his 10th grade with 98% marks under the state board,” said one of his teachers who did not wish to be identified. “And then he shifted to Delhi, where he completed his higher secondary for Delhi Public School, Vasant Vihar.”
After school, he cleared the IIT entrance in his first attempt and secured a seat for its five-year integrated course that allowed him to complete both his graduation and post graduation in computer science engineering from IIT-Bombay in 2011.
“After being in a teaching profession for some time, he joined a software company in Bangalore. He resigned from there and went to University of Copenhagen to do information technology course. In 2017, he joined Jawahalal Nehru University (JNU) for his PhD in modern history,” said another villager, who wished not to be named.
In JNU, most of his fellow students remember him as a “quiet person". Imam briefly supported the Left students’ group All India Students’ Association (AISA). He had also unsuccessfully contested as an Independent for the post of councillor in JNU’s Centre for Historical Studies department in 2015. AISA national president N Sai Balaji said that while they disagreed with his statements, they demanded an end to “witch-hunt against Sharjeel”.
“Since beginning of anti-CAA agitation, JNU’s Muslim students have been participating in different protests and Imam has been talking about chakka jam since the first week of December,” said Afreen Fatima, a councillor in the varsity who met Imam during her election campaign.