Imtiaz Jaleel: Former-NDTV Journalist-Turned-AIMIM MP, Who Once Led Mobs Against Taslima Nasreen, Is Now Demanding Public Hanging Of Nupur Sharma
Senior All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader and Aurangabad MP Imtiaz Jaleel waded into another controversy after demanding that BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma be hanged for allegedly insulting Mohammed, considered by Muslims as their last prophet.
Before joining AIMIM in the run-up to the 2014 Maharashtra assembly elections, Imtiaz Jaleel worked for several years as a reporter with Prannoy Roy founded news channel NDTV.
Senior All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader and Aurangabad member of Parliament, Imtiaz Jaleel, waded into another controversy after demanding that former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Nupur Sharma be hanged for allegedly insulting Mohammed, considered by Muslims as their last prophet.
Addressing a huge protest march organised by the Muslim community in Aurangabad, Jaleel demanded that Sharma be hanged in a public square in the city.
The lawmaker whipped up the already agitated Muslim mob into a further state of frenzy, "if you have to hang Nupur Sharma, then hang her on this very square of Aurangabad."
Before joining AIMIM in the run-up to the 2014 Maharashtra assembly elections, Jaleel worked for several years as a reporter with Prannoy Roy founded news channel NDTV.
AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi was looking for a credible local face to expand the geographic footprints of his party after a noteworthy performance in Nanded civic elections in 2012. Many political observers were surprised that the firebrand leader zeroed in on soft-spoken Jaleel to spearhead the initiative.
"While presenting himself as a soft and suave voice, Imtiaz Jaleel's attempt to advance Islamist causes under the garb of TV Journalism was always noticed by discerning viewers. However given the ideological orientation of the channel's management, he was given free rein. That he plunged in to politics and that too through a fundamentalist outfit like AIMIM was no surprise for many of us," a former TV journalist told Swarajya.
"There are different political parties serving the interests of different communities. Since all the mainstream parties have ignored Muslims, the community is now looking towards AIMIM as their voice," Jaleel said, justifying his decision to join Owaisi's outfit.
Jaleel was fielded from the Aurangabad Central Assembly constituency on an AIMIM ticket in the 2014 assembly polls. Thanks to the complete consolidation of Muslim votes, Jaleel notched up a handsome victory with a margin of over 20,000 votes and ensured AIMIM entry into the legislative assembly. The AIMIM also won the Byculla seat in Mumbai, with Waris Yusuf Pathan becoming the party's second to enter the assembly.
In July 2017, Jaleel and his fellow AIMIM colleagues prevented Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen from visiting Aurangabad. Nasreen was forced to return to Mumbai from the airport in Aurangabad after protests by mobs led by Jaleel broke out outside the airport and the hotel she was supposed to stay in during her visit to the city.
"Her (Taslima Nasreen's) writings have hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims across the world. We will not allow her to step on the soil of our city," said Jaleel.
Jaleel was also credited for the role he played in ensuring AIMIM's emergence as the main opposition party in the 113-member Aurangabad Municipal Corporation by winning 25 seats. Five non-Muslims emerged victorious as AIMIM candidates. However, the Shiv Sena and the BJP, ruling the state of Maharashtra then as part of an alliance, emerged as overall winners. Though they contested the elections separately, Shiv Sena won 29 seats and the BJP 22.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, AIMIM allied with Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar's Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) to consolidate Dalit and Muslim votes. The alliance attempted to popularise the slogan "Jai Meem-Jai Bheem".
While Ambedkar declared that former high court judge B G Kolse Patil, notorious for delivering hateful speeches, as the alliance candidate for the Aurangabad Lok Sabha seat, Muslim workers of AIMIM launched a major protest demanding that the seat be allocated to the party.
Several reports emerged that Jaleel was set to contest the seat as an independent with the support of the local Muslim community. In a damage-control move, Owaisi relented and finally announced Jaleel as the party candidate.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Jaleel was elected from Aurangabad, defeating the four-time sitting MP from the Shiv Sena, Chandrakant Khaire, with a slender margin of 4,492 votes – the narrowest victory in Maharashtra. While Jaleel had the captive Muslim vote bank in his favour, the VBA helped him garner a section of Dalit voters.
In July 2019, Jaleel was appointed the state president of AIMIM by the party's central leadership. However, in the 2019 state assembly elections, the party failed to retain Jaleel's former seat Aurangabad Central, losing to the Shiv Sena. It also was unable to increase its seat tally of two MLAs.
With party chief Owaisi distancing himself Jaleel's incendiary remarks calling for Sharma's public hanging, it remains to be seen how the former NDTV journalist's political fortunes shape up.
Asked if he regretted saying that Sharma should be hanged, Jaleel said: “We are not a Banana Republic. As a lawmaker, I know that it is reprehensible to hang people on the streets. My intent was to state that there should be some stringent action against her. On one hand, we have a woman who is now going to spend well over a month in jail because of her alleged statement against NCP chief Sharad Pawar. On the other hand, we have someone who has disrespected the Prophet who is followed by billions of Muslims… I was only espousing that there should be a law against those who hurt religious feelings.”
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