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Cow protection, bringing ‘Hindustan to knees’, anti-Brahmin rants, more: Analysis of order framing sedition, other charges against Sharjeel Imam

Para 13.5 says that the speeches by Sharjeel Imam, on a prima facie level, has a tendency to create public disorder and can classify as incitement to violence. The court in this observation said that prima facie, the religious groups are sought to be divided on emotive issues and one community is sought to be misguided.

A Delhi Court has found sufficient grounds to proceed against Sharjeel Imam for offences in the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1949 (UAPA) and sedition in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) under Sections 124­A, 153­A, 153­B, 505 IPC & Section 13 UAPA. Additional Session Judge, Amitabh Rawat, Karkardooma Court, said that the speeches by Sharjeel Imam amounted to incitement to violence.

The court, while framing charges first explained the provisions of Section 124 A of the IPC.

The court says that “the offence of Sedition as made out in Section 124A IPC make it abundantly clear that any words, spoken or written, or signs or visible representation or otherwise which brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt or excites or attempt to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India is punishable under the said Section”.

Since the prosecution made elaborate arguments talking about how the speeches of Sharjeel Imam were within the purview of freedom of expression, the court said that dissent against any government, institution and policies are within the purview of freedom of expression since dissent is the hallmark of a progressive nation. However, the court says, “What the Court has to discern is whether the activities of an accused brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards government established by law. What is objectionable and punishable is the activities intending or having a tendency to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resorting to violence. Thus, the gist of the offence is finding out the mens rea which is the intention of accused by means of words or otherwise and to show a tendency to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by incitement to violence”.

Further, explaining the significance of 153 A IPC, the court said, “through words spoken or written or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, the accused promotes or attempts to promote on the ground of religion, etc. disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill­will between different religious groups or castes or which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony and disturbs or likely to disturb public tranquillity. The intention of the accused is again of fundamental importance in ascertaining the applicability of the said Section”.

The case made in the chargesheet against Sharjeel Imam: What the court said

On the 4th of December 2019, the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 was cleared by Union Cabinet for introduction in Parliament and on the 12th of December 2019, it became a law. According to chargesheet, the accused, Sharjeel Imam, was canvassing Muslim dominated areas and spreading falsehoods, claiming that the Citizenship Amendment Act would take away the citizenship of Muslims and that the government would them put them in detention camps.

“Speeches were given to incite hatred, contempt and disaffection towards the government established by law. These were meant to promote enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion”, the court said about the contents of the chargesheet against Sharjeel Imam.

According to the chargesheet:

As a result of speeches and protests, riots took place in Delhi on 15.12.2019, 16.12.2019 & 20.12.2019. Accused Sharjeel Imam gave a speech at Jamia on 13.12.2019 regarding his opposition to CAA and NRC. He also gave speeches at Aligarh Muslim University, U.P, at Asansol in West Bengal and Chakand Gaya in Bihar.

Sharjeel Imam was arrested on the 28th of January 2020 from Imambada, Kako Kasba Village, Jahanabad, Bihar and several pamphlets that he was distributing to the Muslim community were found from his computer, where he was spreading misinformation regarding CAA and NRC. The chargehseet also stated that Imam has done his MPhil on “Exodus before Partition: the attack on Muslims of Bihar, 1946” and has become radicalised after not researching or learning alternate versions of history.

Essentially, in this part, the chargesheet has said that Sharjeel Imam became radicalised after reading literature that presented a one-sided narrative about Muslim persecution during the partition.

After the introduction of CAA on the 4th of December 2019, Sharjeel Imam told fellow Muslims from JNU to prepare to protest against the bill on the 5th of December and started getting signatures of Muslim students. On the 6th of December, Imam made a WhatsApp group called Muslims Students of JNU to rise against CAB/NRC. The date of the 6th was chosen specifically to coincide with the anniversary of the Babri demolition so as to give the protests a “strong communal colour”.

The chargesheet said that Imam made pamphlets with several falsehoods and the WhatsApp messages exchanged between Imam and his “associates” point towards the extreme communal colour of the falsehood. Further, Sharjeel Imam chose mosques to disseminate this information to get maximum impact. In the WhatsApp chats, Sharjeel Imam had also sought funds for this activity.

On the 7th of December 2019, a protest was called by United Against Hate at Jantar Mantar Delhi where the accused not only supported the protest but also actively mobilized a number of Muslim students of JNU to take part in the protest. Imam also wanted to use the Friday namaz to mobilise Muslims on a mass scale.

On the 12th, Sharjeel Imam burnt the copy of the CAA in JNU and thereafter, spread misinformation saying that Muslims would be put in detention centres and there there were thousands of Muslims were ready to disrupt Delhi against the act, that would give them international media attention. Then, on the 13th of December, Sharjeel Imam took part in the protest at Jamia where violence soon erupted.

The court said while talking about the chargesheet:

He actively took part in the said riots due to which his spectacles were also damaged. He admitted it in his Whatsapp chat dated 13.12.2019 and also in his speech at Aligarh Muslim University on 16.01.2020. The rioters pelted stones on public persons, police personnel and vehicles due to which a number of police personnel and people were injured and property damaged. A case of riots was registered. Soon after the riots, accused Sharjeel delivered a speech at Jamia and provoked the gathering for chakka­jam as a means of protest against the government and set the groundwork for other incidents of riots. After his delivery of a speech at Jamia, the protest against CAA & NRC in other areas of Delhi and its adjoining States increased and they started encroaching and blocking the main roads in a planned and coordinated manner reflecting the adoption of modus­operandi i.e. disruptive chakka­jam by the crowds as suggested by accused Sharjeel Imam. The mob was communally surcharged and there were frequent incidents of communal riots. On 15.12.2019, the accused also incited the gathering by way of his instigating speech available in his Facebook post.

The court further said:

On 11.12.2019, the accused delivered a speech and distributed pamphlets at AMU asking for disruptive chakka­jam. An incident of riot took place at AMU on 15/16.12.2019 after the Jamia riots. In the riots, the same modus­ Operandi was adopted.

Sharjeel Imam had further created the Shaheen Bagh Coordination Committee and on the night on 15/16th of December 2019, blocked Shaheen Bagh, causing massive inconvenience to lakhs of people.

The court said:

The accused had managed to mobilize the Muslim community and set the stage for disruptive chakka­jam across Delhi and other parts of India. He succeeded in getting the media attention. Thereafter, the incident of riots took place in the area of Police Station Dayal Pur on 16.12.2019, in Seelampur and Jafrabad on 17.12.2019, Dayal Pur on 17.12.2019, Seema Puri, Nand Nagri on 20.12.2019, Darya Ganj on 20.12.2019. There is also a Whatsapp chat in group of Muslim Students of JNU retrieved from his mobile where he is asking back­up should there be an attempt by some people to unblock the roads. He asks Jumma prayer to be held on the road and to build up the momentum and even provide logistics to those joining the blocking of road.

One of the most operative parts of the chargesheet was that in all the incidents of violence and riots, the strategy provided by Sharjeel Imam was adopted. For example, Sharjeel Imam had visited Northeast Delhi on the 15th of January 2020. “Accused Sharjeel is also arrested in FIR No. 242/2019, P.S. Jamia, Delhi. In the said case, another accused Furkan disclosed that he got emotionally stirred after hearing the speech by accused Sharjeel Imam delivered in Jamia on 13.12.2019. The voice sample of the accused was taken and the CFSL report gave a finding that the speeches by the accused Jamia and Aligarh Muslim University were delivered by him”, the court order cited.

The summary of the 4 speeches mentioned in the court order

In the order, the judge said that it is inarguable that Sharjeel Imam was intelligent and well-read. However, this case was not one where his intelligence or qualifications were under test but the legality of the act committed by him and whether the charges brought against him are justified. The judgement, therefore, cannot hinge on his intelligence but has to hinge on the speeches made by him that incited violence.

The court said that when such speeches are analysed, they have to be heard and understood in its totality and not in piecemeals.

“All the speeches made by accused Sharjeel Imam have to be read in complete to decipher what he was thinking and what he was trying to convince all those who had gathered around him and to whom the speech would get disseminated to. When one tries to interpret a speech, one must consider who is a speaker, to whom it is addressed, to whom it will disseminate, what is the context in which speeches are made. The manner in which it is said, the choice of words in the speech, all are relevant“.

The court said that there is nothing wrong with having a viewpoint and those opinions need to align with any dispensation, however, to say that any speech no matter how threatening or incendiary must be included in the ambit of free speech is “beyond the pale”. The intent of the speech has to be gathered from the words spoken or written, therefore, a speaker will be taken to have the intent of the consequences that followed.

The court then goes into analysing each of the 4 speeches made by Sharjeel Imam.

Jamia Milia Islamia on 13th December 2019

In the first video of the speech made by Sharjeel Imam in Jamia Milia Islamia, the court said:

  1. The provocative speeches were made in connection to the CAA, however, the speeches covered a whole gamut of other issues.
  2. The accused says in the speech that Muslims have been driven out and their property confiscated from 1955 to 1995 and the numbers are in lakhs. The Muslim population of Tripura has been driven out.
  3. After this, he draws a reference to the Quran
  4. He further says that his desire is to see chakka­jam in Delhi and that platform of 100-­200 Muslim students has been created. He says that Indian Muslims can do chakka­jam in 500 cities in India but there are certain roadblocks in this.
  5. He then asks if Muslims have what it takes to shut down cities of North India and the answer of the Muslim crowd was “yes”.
  6. He then talks about the fact that Muslims are living in cities where their population is over 30%. He then questions the crowd as to why those cities are still functioning despite their numbers being so high.
  7. He tells Muslims to “fight” after “making a reference to the Quran”.
  8. He says that whether it is cow protection, the definition of Hindu or manner of elections, it shows that the Constitution itself is fascist but you (Muslims) should take the help of these in Courts. He further says that this can’t be the “last resort”.
  9. He says that the constitution says that property should not be taken or lives should not be lost but in the same breath, he says that lives can be disrupted if Muslims organise themselves.
  10. He says that he and others are distributing pamphlets in Masjids for the last two weeks and will continue to do so. He then goes on to explain the importance of Delhi and how an incident in Delhi would result in wide-scale coverage worldwide.
  11. He then asks Muslims to form groups to do chakka jam across the country.
  12. He then uses a reference to the leadership position of Iqbal Ahmed to drive home his point that leaders can emerge out of a situation. Importantly, the reference point of this story is not an ordinary one but from the 1947 partition.
  13. He stresses again the need for chakka­jam as the goal and tells that water supply, milk supply should be stopped in Delhi and then says that 55,000 people are in detention camps. He concludes his speech by reading a couplet in the context of the 1946 Bihar Riots which again is a reference to Islam religion.

Speech in Aligarh Muslim University on the 16th of January 2020

  1. In this speech, Sharjeel Imam says that he had visited AMU on the 10th and 11th and had spoken about the blockage of roads.
  2. In his speech, he again shares his ideas casting doubts about secularism in India. He starts off by telling that if India was to be secular, then scheduled castes would have been Muslims.
  3. Sharjeel Imam talks about how India is not “secular” because of “cow protection laws”.
  4. He terms the Constitution of India as a document by the Pandits and says that educated Brahmins are very dangerous. He then says that the idea of India is a construct upon the grave of Muslims and it is essentially a unification project by the Pandits.
  5. The court observes that he was not only denigrating the constitution but was also creating hatred against a certain caste (Brahmins).
  6. In this speech, he spoke about how lynchings have been happening for hundreds of years but are being reported only now.
  7. He then discloses his plan of action­when a critical mass of people had been assembled; then what all can be done and what should be got done from them. He talks about the events in Delhi from 5th to 15th December 2019 and then disparages the peaceful mode of protest by political personalities.
  8. He acknowledges the violence at Jamia.
  9. He tells Muslims that they will have to close down India, which they are capable of.
  10. He says that non-Muslims, specifically alluding to Hindus, are not allies and they are lying about being allies if they have not stopped Delhi from functioning yet.
  11. He says that the argument that a lot of citizens are being inconvenienced due to chakka­jam, is in fact our achievement.
  12. He also then talks that if 05 lakhs people were to get organized, then North­East and India can be permanently cut off and if not, then at least for a few months. He exhorts people to block the roads to cut­off Assam and India and again raises the issue of detention camps. He says that ‘chicken­neck’ belongs to Muslims and all the supplies to Army in the North­East should be cut­off.
  13. He also ridicules all those Muslims who are with the Pandits. 
  14. He then ridicules the cow protection and this support from some Muslims. He then gives reference to the necessity of cow killing and says that we will never stop cow killing.
  15. He then talks about the importance of doing Namaz 5 times a day and that it is their right to pray wherever they are standing.

Speech in Asansol, West Bengal, on the 22nd of January 2020

In this speech, Sharjeel Imam asks Muslims if they have come on the roads only for CAA/NRC and he says this while invoking Triple Talaq, Babri Masjid and the Kashmir issue.

The court document says:

He, in his speeches, is talking about detention camps, and the need to burn it, should they be sent there. He stresses the need to create 15­100 Shaheen Bagh and says that if by wishes of God, it is successful then Hindustan would be closed and they will be brought to their knees. Muslims have not closed down India in the last 70 years and now they will do it and do it completely. He also talks about problems faced by ordinary people/citizens due to highway closing at Shaheen Bagh, which he terms it as a success. He asks them to get organized. He ends the speech again with a reference to a couplet in the context of Bihar Riots or attacks on Muslims in 1946 drawing reference to the religion Islam.

Speech in Chakband, Gaya, Bihar on 23rd January 2020

  1. In this speech, Sharjeel Imam says that CAA is an affront to Muslims of India.
  2. Muslims will be put in detention camps and the Courts will do nothing. In four weeks, the government would have put 10­20 thousand Muslims in detention camps and the work is going on in this regard. He lauds the efforts in Shaheen Bagh where the highway has been blocked, Petrol Pump made vacant, show­rooms closed and every citizen living in Noida reaching home at least four hours late. Importantly, he mentions this as his own achievement.
  3. He says that Muslims should sit on the roads till the detention camps are closed.
  4. He asks rhetorically to the crowd what will happen if detention camps are created in Bihar and what will you do when the ladies from the houses are taken away and then replies that you will have to burn those detention camps. He then says that this is happening in Assam.
  5. He said that he would consider it a victory only if hundreds of Shaheen Baghs are created.
  6. He says that there are two crore Muslims in Bihar and if some non-Muslims also join them, there is nothing they can’t do.
  7. He says that these things were tried in Old Delhi and Seelampur in Delhi. He does say that they don’t have to throw stones or pick sticks but we have to close down India. Later, he says that it is very easy for them to block 5­10 highways.
  8. He says that Muslims should paralyse the government and not let the goods travel.

The judgement by the court in the framing of charges against Sharjeel Imam

After detailing the speeches, the court said that a perusal of the speeches shows the fundamental thinking, ideas and intent of Sharjeel Imam. The speeches were delivered to Muslims and that it would also be read and heard by the people belonging to other communities.

The court says:

The speeches seem to be indicative of showing the worthlessness of the community and existential crises. The issue of demographic profiles in certain cities is misleading and needs to be explained at trial. Again the issue of ridiculing cow protection and in the context of secularism requires explanation at trial.

The court says that the apparent reason for making the speeches was CAA and NRC, however, there are several other incidents from history that have been invoked. The aim of the speeches seems to be to convince the Muslims of India that they have been wronged by the Constitution of India and the makers of the constitution who were meant to protect the Muslim community.

The references to cow­killing or reservations not being given to Muslims who had converted from Hindus as such have no relevance for the protest which is ostensibly shown in the arguments as against the CAA law. The speeches appear to be completely pessimistic. In his admitted speech, he focuses that Muslims are concentrated in urban areas and there are 24 cities in the country where the Muslim population can stop the functioning and put the city at a halt and bring the government to its knees“, the order says.

The speeches made, the court says, did result in violence according to the chargesheet as there were several cases of violence in 2019 reported from Jamia, New Friends Colony, Seelampur, Darya Ganj, North­East Delhi post his speeches.

The most important observation by the court comes in para 13.5.

Court order in framing charges against Sharjeel Imam

Para 13.5 says that the speeches by Sharjeel Imam, on a prima facie level, has a tendency to create public disorder and can classify as incitement to violence. The court in this observation said that prima facie, the religious groups are sought to be divided on emotive issues and one community is sought to be misguided. In this part, the court was clearly talking about Imam inciting Muslims by his speeches. By talking about the blockage of the chicken neck, which joins mainland India to the North East, seems to remind everyone that the said land “belongs to Muslims” and that the call to do it is indicative of his intention.

Ending the order, the court said, “Thus, on the basis of material on record, I am of the opinion that there are sufficient grounds for presuming that the accused Sharjeel Imam has committed offences under Section 124A IPC, 153A IPC, 153B IPC, 505 IPC & Section 13 of UAPA. Ordered accordingly”.

It is evident from this order that the court has found prima facie evidence that Sharjeel Imam’s speeches did lead to violence in 2019 and that he had the intention to create disharmony between Muslims and Hindus. Further, Imam had the intention to disparage not only the nation but also Hindus at large. Given this, the court has found that Sharjeel Imam had committed offences of sedition and the other charges in question.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Nupur J Sharma
Nupur J Sharma
Editor-in-Chief, OpIndia.

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