The hunt for Sharjeel Imam, the Jawaharlal Nehru University student who allegedly called for the whole of the northeast to be severed from the rest of India, has spread beyond his hometown Bihar's Jehanabad. Raids are being held across Mumbai, Patna and Delhi by five teams of the Crime Branch, sources in the Delhi Police have told NDTV.
A sedition case was registered against Sharjeel Imam in Delhi for the alleged divisive comment. Police cases have also been filed against him across several states, including Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
A video of the speech -- made at the Aligarh Muslim University, one of the epicentres of the protest against the citizenship law and the National Register of Citizens -- has been making the rounds online. "Preliminary investigations show the comments were made on January 16," Umesh Kumar, the Senior Superintendent of Police (Aligarh), told NDTV.
The Delhi police claimed he made such speeches on two occasions, once at the Jamia Millia Islamia University at the height of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in December.
The scope of the search was expanded after Delhi's Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia - in the backdrop of the coming assembly elections -- dared the BJP-led Central government to arrest him within 24 hours.
The University has also summoned Sharjeel Imam, a research student of Modern Indian History, to explain his position on the allegedly provocative speeches.
Sharjeel Imam is allegedly one of the organisers of the protest at Delhi's Shaheen Bagh protest. But the protesters at Shaheen Bagh distanced themselves from his comments, saying that "no single person" can be called the organiser.
The Citizenship Amendment Act makes religion, for the first time, the test of Indian citizenship. The government says it will help non-Muslim refugees from three Muslim-dominated neighbouring countries if they fled to India because of religious persecution. Critics say the bill discriminates against Muslims and violates secular tenets of the Constitution.