In JNU, Sharjeel Imam read Paul Brass’s book and now Delhi Police chargesheet says it is an evidence

Renowned Political Scientist Paul Brass’s book Forms of Collective Violence: Riots, Pogroms, and Genocide in Modern India is presented as evidence by the Delhi Police in its chargesheet filed against JNU Ph.D. scholar Sharjeel Imam who faces charges under draconian UAPA for a speech which he called for a road blockade as a method of protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act CAA.

The Delhi Police, which has filed a 600-page chargesheet, against Imam said that JNU student became “highly radicalized and religious bigoted” by reading “only such literature and not researching alternative sources.”

Paul R. Brass who is a Professor (Emeritus) of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle, has published numerous books and articles on comparative and South Asian politics, ethnic politics, and collective violence.

According to the chargesheet, Imam gathered knowledge about “collective violence” after reading books by Brass. Police further claimed that Imam had read Brass’s books for his MPhil thesis titled Exodus before Partition; The attack on Muslims of Bihar in 1946.

Imam was booked in several states after his speech against CAA at the Aligarh Muslim University was circulated on social media by righ-wing handles. He was then arrested by the Delhi Police’s Crime Branch from Bihar’s Jehanabad on January 28.

Last month,Imam was also booked by Delhi Police under UAPA for “inciting” the northeast Delhi riots which took place in February this year.

Imam is in Tihar jail now.

Brass’s works have been based on extensive field research in India during numerous visits since 1961. In his book Forms of Collective Violence: Riots, Pogroms, and Genocide in Modern India, Brass notes that most ‘communal violence’ and riots are organised and well planned and are seldom spontaneous.

The chargesheet also noted that the collective violence must be understood not as spontaneous outbreaks of passion but as an act by organised groups.

Brass’sbook on collective violence which was named in chargesheet was published by Three Essays Collective in 2006.

The book also argues that it is also evident that government and its agents do not always act to control violence, but often engage in or permit gratuitous acts of violence against particular groups under the cover of the imperative of restoring order, peace, and tranquility.

“Paul Brass will be stunned to hear that his work on collective violence now constitutes evidence for sedition. If this is the yardstick, then all scholars of Partition/violence will have to be charged given these books are standard fare,” tweeted Ravinder Kaur, historian of contemporary India and an Associate Professor of Modern South Asian Studies at the University of Copenhagen.

In another noted work The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India, Brass has argued that Hindu-Muslim violence in India is rarely spontaneous and in fact takes place as part of an “institutionalised riot system” in which “the organisations of militant Hindu nationalism are deeply implicated.”

Paul Staniland, a political scientist at the University of Chicago and author of the forthcoming book, Armed Politics: Violence, Order, and the State in South Asia said in a tweet that “Paul Brass’s books are essential reading for anyone interested in Indian politics, agree or disagree with them.”