Jawaharlal Nehru University student Sharjeel Imam has tested positive for the coronavirus, The Indian Express reported on Tuesday, quoting an unidentified official of the Guwahati Central Jail in Assam. Imam is in prison in a case related to allegedly making inflammatory speeches during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
On July 17, a team of the Delhi Police reached Guwahati to take custody of Imam and bring him back to the national Capital, India Today reported. All the individuals were tested for the coronavirus before Imam was taken back to Delhi. While the police team tested negative, Imam’s sample came back positive. The Delhi Police have decided to delay Imam’s transfer until he recovers.
Imam was arrested on January 28 from Bihar’s Jehanabad district in connection with the anti-CAA protests near Jamia Millia Islamia University in December last year. The police had earlier charged Imam with sedition, accusing him of promoting enmity between groups and instigating riots.
In a clip on social media, Imam was purportedly heard telling protestors to “cut off Assam from India” by occupying the “Muslim-dominated Chicken’s Neck”. The comment was widely perceived as secessionist, but Imam later claimed that he had called for peaceful protests to “block roads going to Assam” – “basically a call for chakka jam”.
On July 10, the Delhi High Court rejected Imam’s petition challenging a trial court order granting more time to the police to conclude the investigation. A single-judge bench led by Justice V Kameswar Rao also refused to grant default bail in the case. Imam, in his plea, had challenged the April 25 order of the trial court that granted three more months, beyond the statutory 90 days, to the police to complete the investigation. The PhD student at the Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Centre for Historical Studies has been charged under the amended Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Several prisoners have tested positive for Covid-19 in jails across the country as authorities struggle to contain the spread of coronavirus. Assam activist Akhil Gogoi had on July 11 tested positive for the virus at the Guwahati prison, while poet-activist Varavara Rao, an accused in the Elgar Parishad case, tested positive last week in Mumbai.