Jawaharlal Nehru University student Sharjeel Imam was on Tuesday arrested by the Delhi Police Special Cell under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with communal violence that broke out in the city in February, The Indian Express reported.

Imam has already been booked for allegedly delivering inflammatory speeches against Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens in December last year and charged under the UAPA in April. Last month, the police had filed a chargesheet before a court in Delhi, accusing him of sedition. The Central Forensic Science Laboratory had also said that Imam’s voice appears to match the one in the video clips that show him delivering allegedly seditious speeches on the campuses of Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi on December 13 and Aligarh Muslim University on January 16.

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”.

In its submission to the court, the police had attached copies of pamphlets about the Citizenship Amendment Act, which it said were recovered from Imam’s laptop. The forensic report confirmed this. The police also alleged that the pamphlets were later distributed to mosques all over Delhi, and asked people to protest on the streets and block roads.

In the chargesheet against Imam, the police attached photocopies of transcripts of several of his speeches. In one of the speeches, delivered in Asansol on January 22, the Jawaharlal Nehru University student allegedly asked Muslims to protest because they lacked adequate representation in Parliament, the courts, the Indian Army or the police. In another speech, he allegedly asked people not to believe in the Constitution, which he called a “fascist document”.

The PhD student at the Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Centre for Historical Studies was brought back to Delhi from Assam on August 23 on production warrant. He had also tested positive for the coronavirus. He was arrested from his hometown Jehanabad district in Bihar on January 28.

Delhi violence and the investigation

Clashes had broken out between the supporters of the new citizenship law and those opposing it between February 23 and 26 in North East Delhi, killing 53 people and injuring hundreds. The police were accused of either inaction or complicity in some instances of violence, mostly in Muslim neighbourhoods. The violence was the worst in Delhi since the anti-Sikh riots of 1984.

In multiple chargesheets filed in June, the police had claimed the violence in Delhi was a result of a conspiracy to defame the Narendra Modi-led government. They alleged that people who had organised protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act were the conspirators. However, the police have failed to produce video evidence so far.