- Sharjeel Imam is said to be one of the organisers of anti-CAA protest
- Alleged comments slammed by Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma
- Alleged remark also prompted a war of words between BJP, AAP
Assam Police has registered a case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against Sharjeel Imam, said to be one of the organisers of the anti-citizenship law protest at Shaheen Bagh, after videos of him allegedly calling for the state to be cut off from the rest of India surfaced online. Assam Police told NDTV that Sharjeel Imam, a student of Modern Indian History at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), will face charges including those amounting to criminal conspiracy, sedition and promoting enmity between groups on basis of religion.
The alleged comments were slammed by Assam cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who, in turn, alleged that the Shaheen Bagh protests were the first instance of Muslims protesting against Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists.
"Prima facie we are satisfied... have decided to register a case against Sharjeel Imam. If it is not proved, then it is a different thing," he told reporters on Saturday.
"But (I think) this is the first time in the country that Muslims are protesting against Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists... we never protested when Muslims were given something special, like a separate civil code," Mr Sarma added.
"They want Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists, who are poor and (in the) minority in neighbouring countries, have to convert and always remain sandwiched between Muslims of Pakistan and Muslims of Shaheen Bagh," the minister was quoted by news agency ANI.
According to Aligarh Police the comment was allegedly made during a protest speech at the Aligarh Muslim University earlier this month.
"There is a video trending on social media that shows a student of JNU, Sharjeel Imam, making some alleged anti-national comments. Preliminary investigations show the comments were made during a public speech at AMU on January 16," Umesh Kumar, the Senior Superintendent of Police (Aligarh), told NDTV.
Mr Kumar said further investigations into the matter are ongoing.
Meanwhile, a Twitter account that claims to be the official handle of the Shaheen Bagh protesters has responded to the allegations, distancing itself from the alleged comments and saying the agitation " protect (the) constitutional morality of this nation (and) no one individual's videos, statements or articles can represent the movement".
The protest at Shaheen Bagh is to protect the constitutional morality of this nation.— Shaheen Bagh Official (@Shaheenbaghoff1) January 25, 2020
No one individual's videos, statements or articles can represent the movement.#ShaheenBaghTruthpic.twitter.com/vldJ9V8hsD
The alleged comment has also prompted a war of words between the BJP and Delhi's ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), ahead of next month's assembly election.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia dared the BJP to arrest Sharjeel Imam within 24 hours, saying: "else it can be thought he is giving such statements as part of your plan".
"A person is talking about cutting off Assam... BJP is doing press conferences instead of arresting him... arrest him or tell the country you are unable to," he said.
Passed by parliament last month, the Citizenship Amendment Act, or CAA, has been met with widespread protest in the North East, where people fear the influx of Bangladeshi refugees permitted by the law will threaten their jobs and the indigenous culture.
Despite repeated assurances by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, protesters in Assam and parts of the North East remain firmly opposed to the CAA.
The CAA makes, for the first time, religion a test of Indian citizenship. The government says it will help non-Muslims fleeing religious persecution from three countries. Critics say it violates secular tenets of the Constitution and discriminates against Muslims.
(With input from ANI)