Najeeb Ahmed, a 27-year-old Masters student has been missing for a month
Sajeda Haider in New Delhi
Najeeb Ahmed, a 27-year-old M.Sc. student at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in the Indian capital, New Delhi, has been ‘missing’ for almost a month and despite protests by his fellow students demanding that the police take action to find him, Delhi police have done nothing and now unsubstantiated rumours are being spread that he has changed his identity and left the country, maybe to join ISIS.
His distraught mother and siblings have been running from pillar to post trying to get the authorities to look for Najeeb but instead they have been manhandled and attacked by the police. Fatima Nafees, Najeeb’s 60-year-old mother, was dragged by her limbs onto a police bus and taken to a police station along with her family and other JNU students who were holding a peaceful protest to highlight the Delhi police’s neglect of the case.
Najeeb went missing on October 15 after being beaten by a mob of 20 students comprising members of the Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarti Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) parent body, the RSS. Ever since a BJP Government led by Narendra Modi came into power, the ABVP has been flexing its muscles in all the universities of India, attempting to take control of Students’ Unions.
The JNU, one of India’s premier universities, has always been secular, liberal and mostly left of centre in its political leanings, giving scholarshipsto bright students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The JNU has come in for ‘special’ treatment since the BJP Government assumed power as it is one of the last bastions of anti-right wing intellectuals.
In the early hours of October 15, Najeeb called his mother and told her ‘something bad’ had happened to him but he did not elaborate. Coming from an ordinary family in a small district of Badaun in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Najeeb had only reached JNU 20 days earlier to do a postgraduate degree. Worried by the call, Najeeb’s mother and sister rushed to Delhi, but by the time they reached the capital, the student had disappeared. He left behind in his hostel room all his belongings including his mobile phone, wallet, clothes and keys.
The JNU Students’ Union met the Vice Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar with the names of the three students belonging to the ABVP whom eyewitnesses had seen hitting Najeeb and urged him to question them. The Vice Chancellor, a political appointee made recently by the BJP Government, ignored the students’ pleas.
The next day more than 700 JNU students went out on a peaceful protest march against the police’s inaction and filed a complaint in the nearest police station against the boys who had been seen hitting Najeeb. The police continued to remain inactive. The ABVP in turn filed a complaint accusing Najeeb of beating them and then disappearing to save himself.
The stand-off has continued for days with the students and teachers of JNU demanding their classmate be ‘found’. Finally on October 28, Fatima, Najeeb’s mother, told the press that she had lost faith in the JNU administration’s desire to find her son. “Police has not taken any action to find Najeeb. They have not followed the basic procedures or their responsibilities. Those who had beaten him have not been interrogated. Constantly the members of the ABVP are being saved. We will go to the police time and again. We will not forget Najeeb,” said Mohit Pandey, President of the JNUSU.
A traumatised Fatima has knocked on all the doors possible right up to the Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, but she has only received false promises. The police are continuing to drag their feet in the investigation because of the ABVP’s clout in the corridors of power. Rumours are being spread by ABVP supporters that Najeeb was mentally unstable and, as a result, has decided to ‘disappear’ and lead a new life under a different identity. Some have even suggested that he has run away to fight for ISIS.
Every day, the nation’s capital is turned into a battlefield as students demand that the police do their job, while the police cart off the protesters to jails to silence their voices. Amidst all the noise, Fatima’s tears and pleas to bring her son back go unheard by a state that simply doesn’t care.