Sharjeel Imam charged with sedition in Jamia riots case
The Delhi police on Saturday filed a charge sheet against Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Sharjeel Imam for his alleged role in instigating riots outside Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) by allegedly delivering a seditious speech during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in December last year.
Imam was arrested from Bihar’s Jehanabad on January 28 for the speech on December 13 two days after protesters outside JMI clashed with police during a march against the law. At least 100 people were injured in the violence while at least four buses were torched, over 100 two-wheelers and other vehicles damaged.
Delhi police spokesman Anil Mittal said they have filed a supplementary charge sheet against Imam for instigating and abetting the Jamia riots. “During investigation, on the basis of evidence collected, sections 124 A IPC [Indian Penal Code] and 153 A IPC, for sedition and for promoting enmity between classes, were invoked. In this case, the first charge sheet was filed in February against the rioters arrested by a Delhi police’s special investigation team that is probing the violence. A supplementary charge sheet in continuation of the earlier charge sheet has now been filed in the court of the metropolitan magistrate, Saket,” Mittal said.
Days before his arrest, a video purportedly showing Imam talking about blocking the Siliguri Corridor, or Chicken’s Neck, in West Bengal to isolate the northeastern states from the rest of India for a month was widely circulated on social media. HT could not independently verify the authenticity of the video.
The speech led to registration of cases against Imam, who faces life imprisonment if convicted, in at least five states including Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
Imam’s mother, Agsan Rahim, had then said her son’s speech was misconstrued and taken out of context and that he is innocent. However, she could not be contacted for comments over the latest development.
A 20-member group of scholars, filmmakers, advocates and writers released a statement on Saturday calling the recent arrests of scholars a witch-hunt. The group, which includes Manisha Sethi, advocate Yug Mohit Chaudhary and Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar, among others, said that instead of engaging with protesters, the state has chosen to detain and arrest them under harsh penal provisions. It said that while the crime branch is already probing the case of the riots in Northeast Delhi, the Delhi police’s special cell has filed a separate First Information Report (FIR) under which the scholars were being arrested. “This FIR has enabled the stitching together of a political narrative where a direct link is sought to be made between anti-CAA protests and the widespread violence that rocked the Northeast Delhi at the end of February,” the statement said.
Earlier this month, Meeran Haider, 35, a PhD student and the president of Rashtriya Janata Dal’s youth wing’s Delhi unit, was arrested for his alleged role in instigating the Northeast Delhi riots. His party leaders have denied the allegations.
The CAA’s passage in December to fast-track the citizenship process for non-Muslims, who have entered India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh before December 31, 2014, triggered protests across the country. Opponents of the law insist it is discriminatory and unconstitutional as it leaves out the Muslims and links faith to citizenship in a secular country. They say it could result in the expulsion or detentions of the Muslims unable to provide the documentation if the law is seen in the context of a pan-India NRC. A process carried out in Assam to detect undocumented immigrants led to the exclusion of around two million people from the NRC in 2018.
The Centre has maintained there were no immediate plans for implementing a pan-India NRC.