Guwahati: Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) research scholar Sharjeel Imam, who was arrested on charges of sedition for his statements on blocking Assam from the rest of the country, was sent to judicial custody on February 28 after the completion of his eight-day police custody. The Guwahati City Police (Crime Branch) has already registered a case against Imam under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
After the chief judicial magistrate’s (CJM) court sent him to judicial custody for 14 days, he has been lodged at the Guwahati Central Jail. While he was being taken to jail, members suspected to be affiliated to Hindu right-wing groups who had gathered at the court shouted slogans like ‘Sharjeel mordabad’. This sloganeering was also witnessed at the Guwahati Railway Station on February 20, when Imam was brought to the city.
Imam was arrested on January 28 from Bihar’s Jehanabad, after sedition cases were registered against him in five states for a speech in which he asked Muslims to block Assam from rest of India to make the Centre to hold a dialogue on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). Imam has extended support to the protests against the Act and made his remarks at the Jamia Milia Islamia campus on January 16. On January 25, the BJP-led state government in Assam filed a sedition case against Imam.
Munna Prasad Guta, Guwahati City police commissioner, told The Wire that Imam will be produced before the magistrate every 14 days and the magistrate will remand him, which is the normal legal procedure unless police from other states want his custody. “We are investigating him and have questioned him. That is all I can say. We will file a report in court in due course of time,” he said.
The Telegraph on February 29 reported that police in Arunachal Pradesh, where a case has also been filed against Imam, may also seek his remand. The crime branch claimed to have unearthed ‘vital information’ from Imam during the investigation. “It was found that he (Imam) was in touch with several people in the state since 2016. His bank accounts, call records were also examined,” the newspaper reported
Ever since his arrival in Guwahati, local media – particularly TV news channels – have been reporting that Imam had met AIUDF leader Badruddin Ajmal in Delhi when the anti-CAA and anti-NRC protests were at its peak.
A local TV news channel reported that Imam met Ajmal for about one hour in Delhi and that he (Imam) considered his viewpoints on NRC and CAA ‘one-dimensional’. An ‘exclusive’ report aired in the primetime slot on February 24 said that during his interrogation, Imam said his speech was ‘deliberately misinterpreted’ and that he is a law-abiding citizen of India.
The ‘exclusive’ report also claimed that Imam had no special contacts in Assam but was in limited contact with a reporter from Assam. The report also claimed during interrogation, Imam denied being in contact with CPI (ML) and PFI, saying he detests communists because ‘they can’t help society’.
On February 23, the Times of India quoted Debraj Upadhaya, the joint commissioner of Guwahati police, as saying, “He is very intelligent and might not tell us a lot. We had asked for fourteen days of remand and judiciary has given us four days. So, we will again seek custody for him.” The report also said that Imam had visited many places in Jorhat, Dhubri and Goalpara districts, when he met ‘many intellectuals and student leaders’.