23 October 2022 will mark 1000 days 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 the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC), Imam was charged with draconian acts of 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 PhD 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 charge sheets, his speech was secessionist and inflammatory.
Police alleged that his speeches had led to protests in Jamia Milia Islamia and also to fuelled tension in the days leading to the 2020 northeast Delhi pogrom. Delhi Police booked Imam in the Delhi pogrom conspiracy case and the Jamia protest case too.
The 34-year-old Imam is believed to be the pioneer of the Shaheen Bagh protest, a 100-day-long peaceful and historic sit-in in New Delhi organised in response to the passage of the CAA by the Indian Parliament in December 2019.
Though Imam got bails in some of the UAPA and the sedition cases, he will continue to remain in custody as he is yet to get bail in other cases pending against him.
On 23 October, on Sunday, the student bodies in Jawaharlal Nehru University, Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association (BAPSA), Fraternity Movement and Muslim Student’s Federation (MSF) will conduct a protest gathering and public talk in connection with Imam’s 1000 days in jail.
Faculties in JNU, Professor Soumyabrata Choudhary and Dr Vikas Bajpai and Muslim student activist Ladeeda Farzana will join the demonstration.