Who is Sharjeel Imam?
Sharejeel Imam, who was born in Bihar’s Kako, is an IIT Bombay Alumnus and is currently a Ph.D. student in Modern Indian History at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). He often writes for The Wire, The Quint, and Firstpost. His father Akbar Imam, a Janata Dal (JDU) leader, was good friends with Bihar’s CM Nitish Kumar.
He has been one of the primary organizers of Shaheen Bagh anti-CAA protests until stepping back from the protests on January 2 on grounds of political interference. His controversial speech at Aligarh Muslim University brought him into the limelight.
Video of Sharjeel Imam addressing crowds at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), allegedly protesting against CAA and NRC in Uttar Pradesh on January 16, 2020, surfaced. In the 40 minutes long speech there were parts in which he is seen to be making contentious remarks about cutting off Assam forever or at least for a month or two from mainland India to save the Muslims of that region. He talks about gathering 5 lakh people and blocking the supplies to the State by methods like spilling mavad (pus) on the railway tracks to stop train movement to Assam. He asserts that the chicken-neck corridor belongs to Muslims and that blocking it could be the only way the voice of Muslims is heard.
See his statement. Have you seen the video of Sharjeel? It is more dangerous than Kanhaiya Kumar’s statement. He (Sharjeel) is talking about cutting off the Chicken’s Neck to disintegrate Assam from India. Even seven generations would not be able to do that.– Union Home Minister Amit Shah
In other parts of his address, he has not spared either the government or the Left, or the Congress party. According to him, “Congress has been responsible for the wretched situation of Muslims”. Targeting Kanhaiya Kumar, he said “people like him are using Muslims to get leverage in politics…[they] get their photos clicked, raise slogans of ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ and become the face, while nothing productive has ever come out of such things.”
He condemned the actions of Communists in West Bengal and Kerala. Imam even pointed out the violence that the ABVP as well as CPI (M) resorts to by citing an example of JNU in which students were beaten up.
His adamant and vocal stance on his exclusivist Muslim identity along with his supremacist remarks at AMU have caused uproar the nation.
The ‘Chicken Neck ‘ belongs to the Muslims. – Sharjeel Imam in the speech at AMU
Imam Booked for Hate Speech
Delhi, Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh have filed charges against him.
Assam has charged Imam with Sedition under Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) along with Section 153A and 153 B under the same Code. He has also been booked for abetting terrorist activities (Section 18) and soliciting unlawful activities Section (13 (1)) under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Delhi Police filed FIR against him under Section 153 of IPC for provocating for riots, abetting religious disharmony and Sedition.
UP Police has filed a case against him for Sedition and soliciting and creating conflict between religious groups. Manipur charged him for abetting war against the Indian government and unlawful activities along with Sedition.
Arunachal Pradesh also booked him under Sections 124(A), 153(A), and 153(B).
This kind of provocation inciting secession of Assam and other northeastern states from India, creating communal disharmony, hampering sovereignty and territorial integrity of India will not be tolerated.– Arunachal Pradesh CM Pema Khandu
Why Does Imam’s Arrest Matter?
Crime Branch, Delhi Police, arrested Imam from Jehanabad in Bihar. Sharjeel Imam, however, on his Twitter handle posted that he has surrendered to Delhi Police.
According to supporters of Shaheen Bagh, Imam’s arrest comes at a time when the government is looking for a scapegoat of the tukde tukde gang to deliver a message against anti-CAA protests. His chicken-neck remark has caught attention. Siliguri corridor, as it is actually called, has been seen as a geographic vulnerability of India. Adversaries like China and Pakistan have planned to to cutoff Northeast from mainland India by exploting this vulnerability in sensitive warlike situations.
He is being criticized for not just using language that can be considered hate speech but also giving practical strategic frameworks and action points that are not in line with the nation’s interest. With more and more student activists from JNU becoming vocal about issues that can help them get a launch in politics, the timing and position of Imam do not seem unprecedented, considering the history of JNU.