Sharjeel Imam, the mastermind of the Shaheen Bagh protest, has been arrested from Bihar’s Jehanabad by the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police. The Islamist, who had called for cutting North East India from the rest of the country, had been absconding for four days as cases were filed across five states of India. But the support he has received from certain quarters is evidence enough of the fact that his opinions are popular among significant sections of the Indian populace.
In an earlier report, we had elaborated greatly on Sharjeel’s ideology and the foundations of his worldview. In this report, we shall look at the manner in which the Shaheen Bagh protests fit perfectly with his plan of action and other deeply problematic aspects of his belief system. We will primarily focus on the thirty-second day of the AMU protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register. Before we get into his plan of action, which is the really troubling part, we shall address some other problematic aspects of his worldview.
According to Sharjeel Imam, there is no compromise required on the issue of cow slaughter between Hindus and Muslims. Furthermore, he blames the Muslim religious leaders who supported GauRaksha in the pre-independence era for the cow vigilantism that is witnessed today as a response to cattle smuggling. He said, “GauRaksha made an entry in India during the Khilafat Movement when Maulanas said that help us in the Khilafat, we will help with GauRaksha. It was said due to the pressure from the Musharik that cow slaughter should be abandoned.”
Musharik here refers to the ‘Kaafir idolators’, that is, the Hindus. Sharjeel Imam said that Muslims like Maulana Azad supported GauRaksha which has today become ‘poison’ for the Muslim community. He said that beef is the only food that a Muslim doesn’t get bored of. In the same speech, Sharjeel Imam also speaks of Hindu priests in a derogatory manner and claims that the daily Namaz for a Muslim is a matter of ‘Awaam’ whereas there’s no such concept among Hindus who have some ‘Pandit’ sitting somewhere praying for them.
It is evident from Sharjeel Imam’s words that he doesn’t believe Muslims need to compromise with Hindus in any manner whatsoever and he condemns those Muslims who try to negotiate with Hindus in order to achieve a particular target. A conclusion that can be drawn from here is the fact that he does not believe all manners of compromise between Hindus and Muslims is undesirable. Muslims must refuse to compromise with Hindus in any manner and for Sharjeel Imam, it is their way or the highway.
There is one thing that Sharjeel needs to be corrected about in his interpretation of history. ‘GauRaksha’ did not enter India in the 1920s. Cows have been sacred to Hindus since eternity and Hindu monarchs have always gone to great lengths to protect and secure the welfare of cows. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, for instance, was bestowed with the title of ‘Gau-Brahmin Pratipalak’.
Sharjeel Imam appears to hold a special grouse in his heart for the students of Jamia Millia Islamia University and the Jawaharlal Nehru University. He says that they haven’t contributed much to the protests that are underway in Delhi. He is also not fond of the tactics that the students of Jamia have been using which he ridiculed during his speech. According to him, they have spent too much time in gathering in a bunch of 20 and holding a couple of placards for the past too many days. He says, “Who are they showing these to? The same people who have been crossing their path every day. Is there any benefit to this?”
It is then that he truly reveals his nefarious plans for mass mobilization. There are seventeen thousand students in the University, he says, if even five thousand of them spread across Delhi, the national capital will come to a halt. “Every guy who is a scholar, says I don’t need money or votes, fifty people will gather behind him instantly the situation as it is now. This is the situation, you just need to stand in the streets.”
Sharjeel continued, “Wherever I go in Delhi, I meet a shopkeeper and tell him I am from JNU and a Musalmaan, then one person sits, then two, then fifteen and soon enough, thirty people will gather around me, only to listen to me. If you are a scholar, then your duty is on the streets, not here. You have studied, now it is your duty to educate the ‘Awaam’.” For all these reasons, he says, he did not like the protests the students at Jamia were leading. According to him, they had no plan of action.
“We are scholars, we have the energy, we can run, we can tolerate two-four lathis, we can take a couple of teargas, we can create pamphlets, edit videos,” he says before continuing, “We can go door to door and argue with people, the common man cannot do it. The common man does not even know what he has to say.” He says that one of the main things that scholars must do is create a ‘plan of action’.
Sharjeel Imam’s plan for the future becomes evident during this part of the speech which is towards the end of it. He lays out an elaborate plan to make the state bow down to the Muslim community. He makes it clear that it is not a fight between the Congress party or the BJP but one between the Muslim community and the Indian State. He is careful enough to add ‘other oppressed minorities’ but when the speech is viewed in its entirety, the meaning of his words is quite clear.
“We blocked the highway in Delhi. There are four major highways from Delhi to UP. We have blocked one so there’s already great pressure on the other three. If we block one more, toh haalat inki kharab ho jaayegi. And if the DND (the Delhi-Noida-Delhi road) is blocked someday, toh mazaa hi aa jaayega,” he said, at the end of of which he received a round of applause. Sharjeel Imam goes to the extent of saying that the DND should be targeted during peak hours so that even if the Police come, it can be blocked for a couple of days.
During his speech, Sharjeel Imam also says that an ‘intellectual cell’ has been created which he asks the students gathered to join. He says that as many as a hundred, or maybe even two hundred or three, have already joined the ranks to form a team that would work along these lines. He concludes his speech by saying that ‘We have the strength to bring Hindustan to a halt’.
There is a need to break down his speech so that the larger narrative does not get lost in the details. Some people, the usual suspects, would claim that Sharjeel Imam is speaking of democratic protests here but it is really is defending the indefensible. It’s quite clear that he is attempting to replicate the Khilafat Movement but this time, without any support from Hindus and without any compromise with Hindus in manner. Sharjeel’s speech here needs to be seen in conjunction with his eulogy of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. When seen in the light of his adulation of Jinnah, it becomes obvious that he wishes to engage in the politics of mass mobilization not to strengthen democratic politics but to secure the victory of Radical Islam within the territory of India.
It is also quite clear that Sharjeel Imam places a great deal of importance on demography. During his speech, he makes a great deal of Muslims being present in large numbers in Urban India. According to him, this strength can be used to bring the entire country to a halt. He is of the opinion that should Urban Muslims create blockades across the country, then the State will be forced to negotiate. Thus, those who wish to paint it as mere ‘democratic protests’ must also admit that Sharjeel Imam wishes to engage in the politics of mass mobilization in order to achieve explicit Islamist objectives.
Sharjeel Imam also has full clarity on the fact that the ‘protesters’ will have to suffer some violence at the hands of the state. He can be seen saying in a matter-of-fact tone that scholars can tolerate a few lathis and tear gas shells. He says this so casually because he is perfectly aware that the state will be forced to take action to disperse the protesters because the country cannot be allowed to be brought to a halt indefinitely and the state will not be willing to negotiate without using other means at its disposal.
Therefore, it appears that Sharjeel Imam has made the calculation in his mind that although Muslims will have to suffer some violence for a relative amount of time, the state cannot afford to maintain a hardline stance for long. It will be forced to negotiate and that is when the Muslim community will earn its victory. Of course, the Islamist here is borrowing from the conventional wisdom that mandates that a democratic state, more often than not, ultimately bows down to the will of the intolerant minority.
It is also quite clear in Sharjeel Imam’s mind as to what the role of the educated Muslims ought to be in this country. According to him, they must lead the Muslim community in securing their interests. He also believes that it is only the educated Muslim class that can take care of Muslim interests. It is the duty of the educated Muslim youth, he believes, to lead the Muslim community in the pursuit of the victory of Islam.
From this perspective, it is easy to understand why Sharjeel Imam adores Jinnah so much. According to him, Jinnah is precisely what the Muslim community of India currently needs. It might not be farfetched to say that Jinnah is quite possibly his role model, an educated Muslim man who worked towards securing the victory of his Qaum by adopting tactics that were most suited for strategic victories.
As a student of Modern Indian History, he has obviously studied the role played by the Aligarh Muslim University towards the creation of Pakistan. It is only to be expected that he is perfectly aware of the role played by the Muslim intellectuals in the creation of Pakistan. We can safely speculate here that he considers the creation of Pakistan a great victory for Islam and believes the students of the said Universities should take play the same role as his ideological predecessors did during the first half of the 20th century.
Sharjeel Imam’s aversion towards the Left is understandable considering all of this. He does not wish to repeat, it appears, what he considers the mistakes of the Muslim leaders of yesteryears who made compromises in certain areas with Hindus in order to achieve certain objectives. He does not believe in compromises and is of the opinion that Muslims have the requisite strength to bring the whole of India to a halt and Leftists do not add to it their strength in any significant manner. In his eyes, it appears, Muslims are the dominant partner in the alliance that the Leftists are trying to build, therefore, it doesn’t make sense to him as to why Leftists should be the ones setting the terms.
There is deep resentment in Sharjeel Imam’s mind regarding the secularization of Muslim leaders. For instance, he was troubled enough by the secularization of Faiz Ahmed Faiz to write an entire article on why he was a very Islamic poet. He is also troubled by the fact that Leftists want to maintain the pretense of inclusiveness while denying space to ‘la ilaha illallah’ which is what the Muslims want, according to him.
Thus, given everything that we know about Sharjeel Imam, there is an indelible mark of him in the Shaheen Bagh protests. Furthermore, it needs to be investigated whether there was any collusion between the Jamia ‘sheroes’ who gave a call for Jihad and glorified genocidal maniacs of the Moplah Massacres. The role of the media also needs to be investigated in the whole series of affairs.
The path that Sharjeel Imam advocates will inevitably lead to a civil war. It would come as a huge surprise if he himself wasn’t aware that he is paving the path towards one. It is in this light that his call for cutting off the North East from the rest of India ought to be seen. He is surely aware of the importance of the Chicken’s Neck for Indian National Security. It is quite likely also the reason why he advocated for the Chicken’s Neck to be targeted.
The Indian State is the enemy, according to him, and therefore, it should be struck at the point it is the weakest. One has to be extremely naive to believe that Sharjeel Imam’s plan for the Chicken’s Neck was merely democratic protests and not a call for war. Nevertheless, it is extremely unlikely that things would have gone the way he expected them to go given the high-security priorities of the region.