Indian anti-CAA protest organiser now arrested for involvement in Delhi riots: report

Published August 26, 2020
Before being brought back to Delhi, Imam was in custody at Guwahati jail for comments he had made against the country's citizenship law. —Reuters
Before being brought back to Delhi, Imam was in custody at Guwahati jail for comments he had made against the country's citizenship law. —Reuters

Police in India's capital arrested Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Sharjeel Imam, who was previously involved in organising protests against the country's contentious citizenship law, in connection with the deadly riots that rocked New Delhi in February, it emerged on Wednesday.

At least 50 people were killed in Delhi's worst communal violence in decades in February, over two-thirds of them from India's Muslim minority. Mosques were burnt and vandalised along with Hindu-owned shops and at least 15 Hindus were killed.

According to The Indian Express, Imam was arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and was brought back to Delhi from Assam on Sunday on a production warrant.

Before being moved, Imam was already in police custody at Guwahati jail for comments made against the citizenship law last year, the report said, adding that he had also tested positive for Covid-19 on July 21.

Besides Delhi, police in UP, Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh have booked Imam on charges of sedition. He had already been arrested in two cases of violence at a Delhi university, for instigating and abetting the riots by making an inflammatory speech, according to the report.

On July 25, Delhi police had charged the JNU student with sedition before a Delhi court for allegedly inciting people to indulge in activities detrimental to the sovereignty and integrity of the country.

The police had made the allegations in its charge sheet filed before the court in a case related to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) earlier this year, NDTV reported.

"He is accused of delivering seditious speeches and inciting a particular section of community to indulge in unlawful activities, detrimental to sovereignty and integrity of the nation," the charge sheet said.

"In the garb of protesting against the CAA, he exhorted people of a particular community to block the highways leading to the major cities and resort to 'chakka jam', thereby disrupting normal life," it added.

It further alleged that Imam openly defied the Constitution and called it a "fascist" document.

Imam shot to prominence when he helped to organise a mass sit-in in New Delhi, one of the many rallies staged over more than a month against India's citizenship law that the protesters said discriminated against Muslims.

He was arrested on January 29, after he made comments that the ruling Hindu nationalist party said were seditious.

The 31-year-old history student had angered nationalists in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with what they said was a seditious call for the restive northeastern region of Assam to be “cut” from the rest of the country.

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