A joint team of Delhi, Aligarh and Bihar Police on Sunday night raided the ancestral house of Jawaharlal Nehru University student Sharjeel Imam, who has been charged with sedition for calling on protestors to “cut off Assam from India” during agitations against the Citizenship Amendment Act, reported The Times of India. Imam was not found at his house but two of his relatives and their driver were detained for interrogation, Jehanabad Superintendent of Police Manish Kumar told PTI. The three were released later.
Imam, a PhD student at the university, is facing sedition cases in Assam and Uttar Pradesh for a speech he had given at Aligarh Muslim University on January 16. In a video shared on social media, a person believed to be Imam was heard telling protestors to “cut off Assam from India” by occupying the “Muslim-dominated Chicken’s Neck”. The Siliguri Corridor, also known as Chicken’s Neck, in West Bengal connects the North East to the rest of India.
Apart from the sedition charges, cases have been filed against Imam in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur too. The Delhi Police also registered a case against Imam under sections related to punishments for provocative speeches.
Kumar said Imam’s house was raided after “help sought by central agencies” which are investigating the cases lodged against the JNU research scholar.
“My son is innocent,” Imam’s mother Afshan Rahim told PTI. “He is a bright young man and not a thief or a pickpocket. I swear in the name of God that I do not know about his whereabouts. But I can guarantee that upon learning about the cases, he will appear before the investigating agencies and fully cooperate in the probe.”
Rahim defended her son. “He was calling for a ‘chakkajam’ [road blockade],” she said. “He is just a kid and not capable of instigating people for secession.”
Imam himself clarified on Sunday that he had asked people to peacefully block roads wherever possible. He told The Indian Express that he had called for peaceful protests. “In that context, I said you have to block roads going to Assam,” he added. “It was basically a call for ‘chakka jam’. They can put cases on me by editing these clips, but there is nothing that they can prove.”
Imam has been associated with the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh locality, which has emerged as one of the main sites of popular resistance against the citizenship law and the proposed National Register of Citizens. The protests led by women in the locality has been going on for well over a month now.
In a statement on Saturday, the protestors reiterated that the demonstration was not organised by one person. Several media reports had described Imam as the main organiser of the protest. “No one protestor, whether Sharjeel Imam or someone else, can be termed as the sole organiser of the protest,” read the statement.