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Home Media The Quint defends Sharjeel Imam's 'cut off Assam' speech, claims he meant only a...

The Quint defends Sharjeel Imam’s ‘cut off Assam’ speech, claims he meant only a ‘Chakka Jam’, compares it to imaginary ‘blockade’ of 2008 during Amarnath land agitation

Basically, the article exonerates Imam of all allegations and mentions that if at all he is guilty of anything, it is just 'intellectual arrogance'. It adds that the only punishment for that is 'debate and more debate'.

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The Quint’s journalist Aditya Menon, infamously known for passing off an image from Syria as from Kashmir has attempted to rationalise Shaheen Bagh mastermind Sharjeel Imam’s secessionist and violent remarks by equating them with the ISI propaganda of blockades imposed in Kashmir by Hindu organisations in 2008.

Last week, a video had emerged in which Sharjeel Imam could be seen instigating Muslims of the country to break India by cutting of North-east from the rest of the country. He said, “If 5 lakhs Muslims are organised then we can cut the North-east from rest of India. If we cannot do permanently, at least we can cut North-east from India for months. Our responsibility is to cut Assam from India then Govt will hear our voice. If we have to help the Assam then we will have to cut the Assam from rest of India.”

Shockingly, Imam continued his fear-mongering by claiming that Muslims are being killed in Bengal. “We need to block Assam including the movement of Armed Forces and the supplies. Chicken Neck belongs to Muslims,” he claimed.

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Watering down Imam’s dangerously secessionist speech, Menon argued that the former JNU student had simply asked for a “chakka jam or a blockade of the highways and railways leading to Assam”. However, in his pursuit to defend Imam, Menon cunningly drew a parallel with the Amarnath agitation in 2008 when Hindu organisations had allegedly blocked Jammu-Srinagar highway. Menon stated that if that wasn’t considered sedition, then Imam’s call to block the roads and railways leading to Assam should not be considered separatist either.

“Blockade is a legitimate form of protest. In 2008, several Hindutva organisations had blocked the Jammu Srinagar highway during the 2008 Amarnath agitation, cutting Kashmir off from rest of the country. Did anyone accuse them of separatism? And here, Sharjeel is merely talking about a blockade. The blockade hasn’t even taken place,” Menon contended.

Read: From The Wire to everything else, the Anatomy of an Islamist: Into the mind of Sharjeel Imam, the mastermind of Shaheen Bagh

There are two facets of the sophistry employed by Menon here. The first one is concerning the distortion of Imam’s incendiary speech. Menon seems to have cleverly ignored the reference to “Chicken Neck” that was raised by Imam in his speech. Imam categorically stated that Chicken Neck, a narrow stretch of land of about 22 kilometres located in the Indian state of West Bengal, that connects India’s northeastern states to the rest of India, with the countries of Nepal and Bangladesh lying on either side of the corridor, ‘belongs to the Muslims’ and exhorted them to take hold of the area to cut-off Assam and the North-East from the rest of India.

Basically, the article exonerates Imam of all allegations and mentions that if at all he is guilty of anything, it is just ‘intellectual arrogance’. It adds that the only punishment for that is ‘debate and more debate’.

The second aspect is about the false equivalence Menon tries to invoke in order to legitimise Sharjeel’s subversive assertions. The Amarnath blockade, which Menon refers to, in order to justify Sharjeel’s inflammatory remarks, erupted on May 26, 2008, after the central government ordered the transfer of approximately 99 acres of forest land to the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board(SASB) in the main Kashmir valley to set up temporary shelters and facilities for Hindu pilgrims.

The decision was fiercely opposed by Muslims dwellers in the Valley, with organisations such as JKLF spearheading the protests and which saw participation from separatist leaders such as leaders Shabir Ahmad Shah, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC). Pressurised by Muslim protest, the government revoked the land transfer order.

This did not sit well with the Hindus who felt offended by the government’s back-pedalling. At least 35 Hindu organisations staged a protest along the Jammu Srinagar highway demanding restoration of land to Hindus. Hindu outfits such as Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad protested outside the Kashmir House in Delhi against the revocation order issued by the government.

However, Menon did not feel the need to apprise his readers about the background that led to the protests staged by Hindus. In fact, Menon went ahead to falsely claim that Hindus blocked Jammu-Srinagar highway, cutting off Kashmir from the rest of India. But, to Menon’s chagrin, this theory of “blockade of Kashmir” is patently false as the Government of India, the Army, the District Administration, SASB unequivocally repudiated the allegations of the blockade and called it a myth.

In fact, no Hindu groups had rejected India’s constitution or praised Jinnah either.

Denying any blockade, the BJP too denounced the theory of blockade as “a lie perpetuated by the ISI”, of which there was no compelling evidence, and asserted that the people of the Valley were being misled with false propaganda, abetting the nefarious designs of separatists.

If this was not enough, Menon, in his article in the Quint, goes a step forward to claim that the government, unnerved by the ongoing Shaheen Bagh protests, made a scapegoat out of Sharjeel Imam. Menon floated a ridiculously far-fetched conspiracy theory that Sharjeel Imam was demonised by the government as a traitor so that the Shaheen Bagh protests can be branded as ‘anti-national’.

With this, Menon not only attempted to absolve Sharjeel of any wrongdoing, but he also proceeded to validate the Shaheen Bagh protests, which have been under the scanner ever since the start. Much before the video of Shaheen Bagh protests mastermind Imam spewing secessionist venom went viral, there were several instances that conclusively established the communal and anti-national undertones of the protests. However, going by Menon’s dubious past record and the Quint’s propensity for shoddy journalism, one is not surprised at the chicanery displayed by him to undermine government action against the anti-nationals.

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