New Delhi: A thesis on communal riots during Partition, books authored by political scientist Paul R. Brass, a WhatsApp group of Muslim students from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and three pamphlets — these are some of the things presented as evidence by the Delhi Police in its over 600-page chargesheet filed against arrested JNU scholar Sharjeel Imam.
The chargesheet was filed before a Delhi court on 27 July, almost five months after he was arrested on 28 January for allegedly inciting through his speeches those protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens in over 500 cities to do ‘chakka jam’ (road block).
This, according to the police, led to violence in several places including Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi in December 2019.
Charges of sedition can stand only when the cause for violence is incitement, his lawyers told ThePrint.
In Imam’s case, they claimed, the police picked up a paragraph or two from selective speeches to jail him.
“The paragraphs have been taken out of context,” they added.
Books gave him knowledge on ‘collective violence’
The police noted that Imam gathered knowledge about “collective violence” from the books he read as research for his thesis.
“By reading only such literature and not researching alternative sources, the accused became highly radicalized and religious bigoted,” the chargesheet noted.
For his MPhil thesis — ‘Exodus before Partition; The attack on Muslims of Bihar in 1946′ — Imam had read books of US political scientist Paul Brass as research, according to the chargesheet. It names the book, Forms of Collective Violence, Riots, Pogroms and Genocide in Modern India, which catalogues various forms of collective violence that has occurred in India during the past six decades, which includes riots, pogroms and genocide.
These various forms of violence, the chargesheet noted, must be understood not as spontaneous outbreaks of passion but as an act by organised groups.
“The accused is highly bigoted person who completely lacks faith in the Constitution of India and exhibits complete mistrust in it. He despises all democratic means of protest and goes on to the extent of labelling the Constitution of India as a Fascist document,” the chargesheet stated.
It noted that Imam’s protests were against the backdrop of the CAA, which the chargesheet says was a “positive action” as it provides citizenship to a particular class of persons.
The police added: “Falsehood and rumours were being spread with mischievous intent by a certain section of intellectuals, media persons and other lobbyists with vested interests that CAA, 2019 is against one community and is discriminatory in nature.”
Pamphlets, WhatsApp groups & funds
Apart from his speeches, three pamphlets — one each in Hindi, Urdu and English — prepared and distributed by Imam at mosques in Nizamuddin, his active participation in a WhatsApp group for Muslim students of JNU and raising funds for what the police called misinformation campaign, have also been placed as proof for his complicity.
The WhatsApp group, the police alleged, was created to organise protests against CAA and NRC.
The chargesheet also alludes to a particular conversation on the WhatsApp group regarding the editing and distribution of a pamphlet.
“This particular chat establishes that conscious efforts were made to propagate falsehood in the Muslim community to instigate it against CAA and NRC on religious ground,” the police stated.
Police analysis of the pamphlets reveals that the accused had allegedly falsely claimed that CAA would lead to crores of people being declared as illegal residents of India, who would be imprisoned and subsequently expelled from India.
It also annexed details of a phone number, through which Imam accepted payments through Google Pay app. A total of Rs 42,614 was collected in this account, according to the police.
Imam’s lawyers said they will apply for bail in the Delhi case, once scrutiny of the chargesheet is over.
Imam’s legal journey
Imam has been in jail since 28 January for allegedly delivering inflammatory speeches to “misguide” the Muslim community, particularly the youth, during the anti-CAA protests in December last year.
On 25 January, the Delhi Police’s Crime Branch had registered a case against him after a 40-second clip of his “communally-charged” and “divisive” speech at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) on 16 January went viral.
Within 24 hours, cases were lodged against Imam in four other states — Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Manipur.
This, Imam’s lawyers told ThePrint, was barred under the principle of double jeopardy in the Constitution — the concept that a person cannot be punished for the same offence more than once.
A petition by his lawyers to club all the cases into one is pending before the Supreme Court.
However, the states have their own reasons for the multiple FIRs. According to them, Imam’s speech in AMU incited Muslims in over 500 cities to organise chakka jams, particularly in areas with a large Muslim population.
In the FIR registered by the Delhi Police, he was booked under sections 124A (to excite or attempt to excite disaffection towards government established by law), 153A (promoting enmity between groups on the ground of religion), 153B (making imputations or assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Additionally, he has also been charged with Section 13 of the stringent anti-terror law, UAPA.
This section was added on the 88th day of his arrest, two days before the 90-day mandatory period for the police to file its chargesheet came to an end.
Charging Imam under UAPA granted the police an additional 90 days to complete its investigation to file the chargesheet, which was finally done on 27 July.
Imam was also named as an accused in the FIR registered in connection with the December 2019 violence that took place at Jamia Millia Islamia.
Imam was also slapped with sections of the UAPA, including those related to terror cases, in Assam. However, he got bail in Assam and also in Arunachal Pradesh after the police failed to file a chargesheet within 180 days.
Both Manipur and Uttar Pradesh did not arrest Imam. His petition to quash the case in UP is pending before the Allahabad High Court.
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