This is for Sharjeel Imam’s friends and well-wishers. And also Facebook activists who wouldn’t ever risk their necks to do anything worthwhile while posting preposterous rants. Read through this carefully.
On 14th February, that is a week ago, I had alerted someone working with Sharjeel’s legal team that a team of Assam Police personnel is camping in Delhi to take him into custody. So, it was just a matter of time they would seek custody from the Delhi court which had remanded him to judicial custody in the Delhi Case and obtain transit remand for his travel to Assam.
This is basic criminal law.
You cannot bring a prisoner in custody of a court somewhere to the jurisdiction of another court, which is also geographically in another district or state, without the permission of that court and without a transit remand.
So, the task of Sharjeel’s lawyers, family, friends, and well wishers was cut out – since there are multiple cases in multiple states, they needed to keep a 24×7 watch on his case – (1) in the Delhi Court so that they would know who has moved petition to seek custody (2) on jail, if possible.
You cannot afford not to do this when you are fighting the state. They would not inform you because they are under no obligation to do so. How you do it is not my concern. If you are his well wisher, you find a way to do it. Such practical help is of more use than hyperventilating and outraging. Sharjeel cannot just disappear while being in judicial custody.
We have routinely handled situations earlier where our cadres could be just picked up and held in illegal detention without being produced before even a court for days or tortured to death. That does not happen anymore because we have made it impossible for them to do so. Last such incident happened in August 2015 and we compelled the army unit involved to move out of Assam within a week. And we did this even when AFSPA is still in force. You cannot afford to be slack.
I certainly did not worry about Sharjeel in judicial custody because given the massive media attention, nothing would happen to him. No custodial torture would happen. He cannot be disappeared like a Shohrabuddin, or countless Kashmiris, and also North Easterners who had lived their entire lives under AFSPA.
So, when I received messages that Sharjeel’s family, lawyers, and friends did not exactly know where he was, and that they had only heard he was being taken to Assam, on the night of 19 February 2020, I was a little surprised.
I quickly checked with my sources (not primary) and I was told that Assam Police had obtained custody and he was already in Assam and would be produced in court the next day. I did not bother to recheck this and spent almost the whole day waiting for Assam Police to produce him in court. But when there was still no sign of media at the Court of the CJM, Kamrup (Metro), I knew something was not right.
So, I called an official and asked why wasn’t he produced in court yet? I was told that because the train was late.
None of the friends and well wishers who had contacted me seeking to know whether he was already in Assam could tell me which date Assam Police had obtained custody and transit remand and how many days was the transit remand for?
No one could tell me that.
Since I had one definite piece of information that the train was late, I dispatched a couple of our girls to the station to find out.
Rajdhani was arriving a little before STA at 19:50.
Brahmaputra Mail was running late.
I immediately sent off a handful of our boys and girls to stake out Ghy Railway Station so that I get visual confirmation.
I reached there at 19:30 myself.
The Rajdhani roared into platform No: 2 at 19:50. Usually, it comes in at Platform No: 1.
I could see media persons at the western end of the platform 1. Then saw senior police officials gathering there. Outside, the convoy of police vehicles had arrived and so did a bunch of ABVP thugs. I smiled to myself that I was correct in guessing that he would be arriving by Brahmaputra Mail.
Brahmaputra Mail arrived about 7 minutes later at 19:57
At exactly 20:00 hrs, Sharjeel Imam stepped off from the Brahmaputra Mail on to platform No. 1 of Guwahati Rly Station, and walked down the 200 meters to waiting police vehicles outside, escorted by a large number of Assam Police and CRPF personnel and chased by the media and onlookers.
He looked calm.
Once outside, the ABVP started raising slogans. Some wanted him hanged while others wanted him to go back.
He was taken to MMC Hospital for a mandatory medical check up, and was then produced before the CJM at close to 21:00 hrs. I have been informed that he was remanded to 4 days in police custody.
I don’t know about the local TV channels which I do not watch anyway, the local newspapers did not give much space to him. Which is a good thing.
No, he cannot be subjected to custodial torture. He is too high profile. He would be safe in Gauhati Central Jail when his police custody ends. Usually, all those who are arrested under UAPA, NSA etc are assigned Block 2. He would get to meet Ranjan Daimary there as his parole to be able to sign the Bodo Peace Accord ended and he surrendered back to court yesterday.
There are cases against him in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
If either of the states seeks his custody, I would get to know.
The thing is, if you want to help him, keep a tab on what is happening. Get proper information. 24×7. Paranoia does not help.
We will ensure that he is safe and that his rights are not trampled upon beyond already what has happened.
For me, it is very clear. He has not lynched anyone, he has not terrorised anyone, he is not a rapist & murderer like many BJP MLA and MPs are, he is not a criminal. He is outspoken as a Muslim and he has every right to be. That cannot amount to sedition or amount to any act that can be prosecuted under UAPA. This is blatant misuse of law and justice must be ensured to him.
_ Nilim Dutta