The latest person to be arrested by Delhi Police special cell, under FIR 59 probing the alleged conspiracy behind Delhi riots, is JNU student Sharjeel Imam. If people interrogated by the Delhi Police are to be believed, special focus is being given to a meeting that took place in Delhi on 8 December 2019.
Over several conversations The Quint has had with those who have been interrogated by the Delhi Police special cell, we have learnt that the police is trying to build evidence and make the case that it was this very meeting where “responsibilities were assigned and the riot conspiracy hatched.”
Remember that all of Delhi Police’s charge sheets have a separate section on chronology. This section does not restrict the violence to what happened in February 2020, but dates back to the violence that erupted around Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia on 13 December. Imam’s arrest is in line with the police’s narrative as he was already lodged in jail by January end, roughly a month before the riots began.
The police is facing their deadline to file charge sheet under FIR 59 by 17 September. This is their second extension to file the charge sheet. While the first was granted by a Patiala House Court judge till, 17 August, the second was granted by a Karkadooma court judge till 17 September.
To read our investigation into the Delhi violence probe, click here.
What Happened At This 8 December Meeting?
For context, this was a time when the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was still a Bill and called the CAB. It was passed by the Lok Sabha on 9 December, Rajya Sabha on 11 December and the President notified the Act on 13 December. Also, a day before this meeting, on 7 December, there was an anti-CAA protest organised by United Against Hate at Jantar Mantar.
The meeting was organised in a building in Jangpura, frequented by various civil society groups including Narmada Bachao Aandolan, National Alliance of People's Movements and others. Other than Imam there were at least 10 other people present in this meeting. Apparently, the reason this meeting was being called was because of a comparatively lower turnout out at Jantar Mantar. People from the civil society decided to meet and discuss a way to get more people to come out and protest.
While nothing significant happened in this meeting, The Quint has learnt there was an argument that came up.
Yogendra Yadav who was present in the meeting explained, “Yes, there was a meeting and it took place on 8 December at the office of NAPM in Jungpura, where movement groups normally hold their meetings. It was not any hidden, conspiratorial place. Several meetings took place at that venue before and after CAA was passed. The meeting on 8th December turned out to be a non starter as most of the people invited did not turn up due to short notice. The next meeting was on 16th of December, which got diverted into how to restore peace in Jamia after the violence and police action the day before. So we could not have a proper meeting before the nation wide protest on 19th December,”
The argument that happened was on one issue - whether the protests should be considered a Muslim movement or not. Imam was of the view that since the CAB directly discriminated against Muslims, therefore it should be a Muslim protest. But a few others in the meeting insisted that this was not true and said that the protests should be secular in nature as they were regarding the constitutional validity of a law.
Speaking about this argument, Yadav said, “It is laughable to imagine that any conspiracy was hatched in the meeting on 8th December that did not even begin. The only thing I remember about the informal discussion (as we were waiting everyone to arrive) was an ideological difference about what should the nature of the movement be. A student from JNU who I had not known earlier, said that he felt this needed to be primarily a Muslim movement. Myself and many others who were present said it must remain a secular movement involving all communities. Later, when his name came in the media due to his statement, I recognised that the student was Sharjeel Imam. I want to put it on record that notwithstanding our ideological differences, Sharjeel did not advocate or even hint at any form of violence or undemocratic plan of action. There was no follow up contact or meeting with him before or after 8th December.”
Cases Against Sharjeel Imam: Jamia Violence and Now FIR 59
An FIR was registered against Imam by the Delhi Police on 25 January under IPC sections 124A (sedition) and 153A (promoting or attempting to promote disharmony or feelings of enmity on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever) among others.
Imam was slapped with a sedition case after his speech, in which he allegedly spoke about ‘cutting off’ Assam and northeastern states from the rest of India as part of anti-CAA protests, went viral.
Arrested from Bihar on January 28 and later, on 29 April, he was also booked under the the anti-terror law UAPA. His arrest under FIR 59, is now the second time that he has been booked under the anti-terror law by the Delhi Police special cell. While he had been arrested for allegedly ‘instigating and abetting Jamia riots’ already, his arrest under this particular FIR, over six months later, is in line with Delhi Police’s chronology regarding the build up of the riots. Mentioned as a different section across all Delhi riots charge sheets, the police’s narrative begins with the incident of violence at Jamia Millia Islamia in mid-December.
One charge sheet reads:
The below mentioned leaders/activist have visited the Protest Site of Jamia University and delivered hate speeches to provoke the general public to show their strength. Mr.Sharjeel Imam (JNU Student), who visited the site and provoked the protestor on 14/12/19 to block all the metro cities in north India until CAA/NRC is rolled back by the Government and after that riots incidents broke out in area of NFC and Jamia Nagar
On 26 August, Sharjeel was sent to initially four and then three day police custody for investigation under this FIR. After it ended on 3 September, he was sent to judicial custody for 30 days.