Police raided the ancestral home of anti-CAA activist Sharjeel Imam in Bihar, hunting for him in sedition cases lodged across several states for his alleged "inflammatory" speeches, but he eluded the dragnet, officials said on Monday.
Police in two northeastern states—Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh—lodged FIRs against the JNU scholar, over his speech in which he threatened to "cut off" Assam and the northeast from the rest of the country.
Jehanabad Superintendent of Police Manish Kumar said police swooped on Imam's ancestral house in Kako police station area on Sunday night after "help was sought by central agencies".
Imam was not to be found but two of his relatives and their driver were detained for interrogation and let off thereafter, the SP said.
A graduate in computer science from IIT-Mumbai, Imam had shifted to Delhi for pursuing research at the Centre for Historical Studies at the JNU.
He was slapped with a sedition case after his alleged speeches went viral on social media where he was heard speaking about "cutting off" Assam and the northeast from India.
Earlier, he had been booked on similar charges by Aligarh police in Uttar Pradesh for a speech he delivered on the AMU campus.
The cases were lodged after Imam's purported video emerged where he spoke about cutting off the northeast from India if "five lakh people stand organised".
"If five lakh people are organised, we can cut off the northeast and India permanently. If not, at least for a month or half a month. Throw as much 'mawad' (variously described as pus or rubbish) on rail tracks and roads that it takes the Air Force one month to clear it.
"Cutting off Assam (from India) is our responsibility, only then they (the government) will listen to us. We know the condition of Muslims in Assam....they are being put into detention camps," he was shown in the video as saying.
Assam police has already lodged a case against him under the anti-terror law—the Unlawful Activities (prevention) Act.
Imam's father, the late Akbar Imam, was a local JD(U) leader who had unsuccessfully contested an assembly election in his lifetime.
Meanwhile, police in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh have registered FIRs against Imam under IPC sections relating to waging war against the nation and sedition. If convicted, he could be imprisoned for life.
"Taking cognisance of the objectionable video of Mr Sharjeel Imam, in which he threatened to sever Northeast from the rest of country, the Manipur Police has filed an FIR (No. 16(1)2020 IPS) under sections 121/121-A/124-A/ 120-B /153 IPC," Rajat Sethi, an adviser to the Manipur chief minister tweeted. Singh retweeted it. The case was filed on Saturday.
The crime branch of Arunachal Pradesh police also filed a similar case against Imam on Sunday, Special Investigation Team (SIT) SP Dr Navdeep Singh Brar said.
The SIT has already begun investigating the case.
"This kind of provocation inciting secession of Assam & other NE states from rest of India, creating communal disharmony, hampering sovereignty & territorial integrity of India will not be tolerated," Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu tweeted.
Imam's mother reacted with anguish to the developments back home in Bihar's Jehanabad.
"My son is innocent. He is a bright young man and not a thief or a pickpocket. I swear in the name of God that I do not know about his whereabouts," Afshan Rahim told reporters.
"But I can guarantee that upon learning about the cases, he will appear before the investigating agencies and fully cooperate in the probe," she said.
She said it has been a long time since she met her son though she had a telephonic conversation with him a few weeks ago.
"He was obviously disturbed by the CAA and fears over the National Register of Citizens (NRC) being implemented across the country which, he said, would affect not just Muslims but all poor people," she said.
Rahim said after 15 days of Shaheen Bagh protest in Delhi, he had asked the agitators to withdraw and watch the situation for a month, before deciding on the further course of action.
"But they refused to relent. He was calling for a 'chakkajam' (road blockade). He is just a kid and not capable of instigating people for secession," a distraught Rahim said.