28 January 2022 marks the two years of incarceration of Sharjeel Imam, a research student at Jawaharlal Nehru University and one of the country’s rights defenders who were targeted by the Hindu nationalist BJP government for their disagreements and dissents.
In January 2020, during the historic agitation against discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC), Imam was charged with draconian acts sedition and UAPA by five Indian states for his speeches against CAA and NRC. Following the huge hate campaign on the Internet and governments’ notices after notices, the Ph.D. student from Bihar surrendered to Delhi Police on 28 January 2020.
In the speeches, Imam had called for a road blockade as a method of protest against CAA. The police in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh registered FIRs against the speech and according to their chargesheets, his speech was secessionist and inflammatory.
Delhi Police booked Imam in the Delhi riots conspiracy case and the Jamia protest violence case too.
Shrjeel Imam who got bails in the Assam and Arunachal Pradesh UAPA cases was granted bail by the Allahabad High Court in November 2021 in a sedition case filed by Uttar Pradesh Police.
Imam is in Tihar Jail now with at least three cases under draconian UAPA and sedition.
“No doubt that Sharjeel is a bright mind, enough has been written on it but what people forget to mention is that he is also a person with courage. His courage is the raison d’être for a movement like Shaheen Bagh and his contribution to the movement is very well documented. Many wished to devoid Shaheen Bagh of Sharjeel Imam, but you cannot have a tree without its roots. It is common knowledge that the brain and courage behind the massive nationwide protests that rattled the whole globe in their quest for justice, was none other than Sharjeel Imam, and it all started one winter evening with a group of 50 people,” Mohammad Kashif, JNU student, and Imam’s friend wrote in his article ‘Tracing Sharjeel Imam from IIT to Tihar.’
Imam’s brother Muzzammil imam wrote in an article ‘Sharjeel Imam became a litmus test for Muslim allies’ : “Sharjeel Imam wanted people to take inspiration from Shaheen Bagh and block roads at multiple locations across the country in order to pressurize the government to listen to the demands of the minority. He believed that with a lack of representation in the parliament Muslims hitting the road is the only method through which we could make the government listen to our apprehensions. Instead of this people stormed Shaheen Bagh. Celebrities started pouring in. Everyone, from across the country, started visiting the blockade rather than blocking roads in their own cities.”
Another article was written by JNU student and BAPSA activist Snehashish Das. “Sharjeel Imam narrates Muslim politics, anti-caste consciousness, the truth of Ambedkar, Gandhi, and the technicalities of the Constitution—rather than invoking mere theatrics to let the people imitate with the loss of truth. Sharjeel Imam was engaged in building an alternative consciousness by presenting the people with truth. In his speech that was delivered in AMU, part of what deemed to be ‘seditious’ to the state and the Brahminical media, he was talking about the ideology and work of Gandhi in building a Hindu majority, the fact that the left and liberals use Muslims for their nefarious politics, and rather invoking the grand theatrics of the ‘why Gandhians, the left, and Ambedkarites coming together’ by manipulating or hiding the truth of all of them from the public,” Das said in his article ‘Shaheen Bagh, Sharjeel Imam and invisible theatre around Delhi Election.’
For Muhammad Shah, a PhD-Research Scholar at ASPECT, Virginia Tech, United States, “Sharjeel Imam, a PhD student at JNU embodies the struggle against the redaction as well as reduction and becomes the most criminal subtraction in contemporary India. He becomes a Muslim subtracted from everything else once he was. Subtracted to be a ‘Muslim’, he now undergoes the legal lynching decreed directly by the state.” Read his article ‘Citizenship Act: Muslim singularization and the denial of the political.’
“Sharjeel Imam is in jail not because of BJP. Sharjeel Imam would have been in jail even if there would have been other political dispensation because he is an unapologetic Muslim youth who chooses to speak what has to be spoken,” in a demonstration gathering, JNU student leader and Fraternity Movement national leader Afreen Fatima said.
In a speech delivered inside the JNU campus, Jawaharlal Nehru University associate professor Soumyabrata Choudhury spoke on how vital it is to unconditionally support Sharjeel Imam. “Sharjeel is that real moment,” he said.
“Sharjeel Imam’s emergence was a moment that falsified this state. He faced both the oppressor and the enabler and dared to cross the dead ends in the Muslim political discourse in India. While the words “the partition” and “Jinnah” were the keywords to mute any vocal Muslim, he posed counter questions and refused to be hushed by anyone. Apart from inventing a language, he upheld dignity and self-sufficiency as the major catalyst of any political action,” read the article ‘Disguise and betrayal: A Muslim other in India about others‘ written by Muhammed Nihad PV, a student of sociology at the University of Hyderabad.
“On her fearless son Sharjeel Imam, Afshan Rahim said to me it was his choice to stand up for the marginalized and suppressed communities which led him to charges of sedition and UAPA. ‘And when it comes to me,’ Afshan Rahim claimed, ‘I am nothing but just proud of my son for whatever he has done and wherever he stands because I know he is standing with the truth.’ She also has immense faith in Allah and hopes that the court would not ignore the truth which happened in media trials when the spineless journalists tried to undermine his strength, ‘Jab bhi Sharjeel, niklega uska daman saaf hoga in bebuniyaad ilzamaat se.‘ (Whenever Sharjeel comes out he will be clean from all baseless accusations and slanders made against him.),” Zeba Afrin, a law student at Aligarh Muslim University wrote in her article Muslim mothers.
Sabah Maharaj, JNU student in her article ‘Extracting identity from (Muslim) woman: Secular anxiety and spectre of communal‘ wrote: “What caused Sharjeel Imam to be declared ‘communal’ at that instant – what was so distinctively particular about the image of this young scholar, who has been vociferously hunted by the state, that could not be universalised? Is it because it was difficult to appropriate the struggle of a Muslim, with his name, his identity and his aspirations for his community intact as opposed to the projection of an amorphous, nameless group whose identity, history and vulnerabilities could thus be shrouded by a universal vocabulary- a phenomenonanthropologist Veena Das describes as the forceful inscription of authoritative and professionalised discourses over the ‘voice’ of the marginalised by the culturally hegemonic in society.”
“The Delhi Police also explained to us in painstaking detail how they managed to arrest Sharjeel Imam and how they came to the conclusions about his plans against the Indian State. But they never once mentioned that this plan was about blocking the streets in the framework of a protest. And there is nothing wrong with disrupting the working of the State when the State does not work for the people it claims to serve,” read the article ‘The Seditious State of India’ by Anurag Azad, a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Magdeburg. — Maktoob Media