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JNU Student Missing For 3 Days: Students Protest, Admin Gets Defensive

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By Amrita Singh:

Najeeb Ahmad, an All India Students’ Association (AISA) member and a first year student of MSc Biotechnology in Jawaharlal Nehru University, has been missing since the morning of October 15. He reportedly had a scuffle in his hostel room with members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) a night before his disappearance. The details of the incident are still ambiguous since Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union, members of which were also present in the hostel at that time, and members of ABVP have two different versions as to what had happened. While JNUSU is accusing ABVP of communal violence, ABVP is accusing JNUSU of politicising the matter by giving it a communal colour.

On the night of October 14, ABVP members were holding a door-to-door campaign at the Mahi-Mandavi hostel of JNU for the mess committee elections. According to JNUSU’s statement, during this campaign, after an alleged scuffle between Najeeb and three ABVP members in the former’s room, a group of 10-15 supporters of ABVP came to the hostel and attacked Najeeb. He was allegedly “criminally intimidated, communally targeted and physically assaulted” by the same group in front of the G4S security and the hostel wardens. The students’ union has also stated that the “JNUSU President and other hostel residents who had come to stop the attack were also assaulted by the same 10-15 group of students… They repeatedly told the warden not to initiate any proceedings and leave Najeeb to them and then they would not spare him. They also hurled patriarchal and communal abuses at Najeeb in the presence of the wardens.”

ABVP has refuted these claims and alleged that it was Najeeb who started the fight by slapping their member. Ravi Ranjan Chaudhary, Delhi Joint Secretary of ABVP, has reportedly said, “Four of our members went to his room in Mahi hostel. One of them, Vikrant, had a red thread around his wrist. When Najeeb opened the door, he asked Vikrant why he was wearing the thread. He then slapped Vikrant without waiting for him to answer.” Saurabh Sharma, another member of the party and ex JNUSU Joint secretary said, “He even admitted to his mistake. In an emergency meeting held after the incident, he was expelled from the hostel and asked to vacate on or before October 21.” ABVP has also filed an FIR against Najeeb for assault.

Najeeb’s mother, who lives in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh, claimed that he had called her around 2 a.m. on Saturday. She said, “He said nothing except that ‘Mere saath koi haadsa ho gaya hai, aap aa jaiye (There has been an incident, please come)’. I told him I would leave as soon as possible, but would not make it to Delhi before noon the next day… I spoke to him again Saturday at 11 a.m., from Anand Vihar Railway Station, and told him I was on the way, but when I reached the university around noon, he was gone. His mobile phone, wallet, everything was in the room. Now, I sit holding his mobile, hoping he will call me any minute.” Najeeb’s mother and local guardians have also alleged that they were not informed by the administration about him going missing. They have filed a complaint and a case has been registered at the Vasant Kunj north police station under Section 365 of the Indian Penal Code as it is believed that Najeeb has been kidnapped.

JNUSU hasn’t been on good terms with the administration, especially since the new VC was appointed. Since the past few days, it has also been protesting against the show cause notices issued by the administration to the students. In the protests that followed Najeeb’s disappearance, the Union has been accusing the administration of not taking timely and proper action. President JNUSU, Mohit K. Pandey, also expressed his discontentment over the meeting with the administration on the issue. In a Facebook post, he said, “We were completely disappointed in the meeting with the administration today. Instead of taking action against the ABVP goons the administration tried it’s best to shield them.”

As a response to these allegations, the administration has stated in a press release that it took ‘prompt action’ following the incident on October 14. Moreover, even though there isn’t any known proof or recording as to what happened that night and it is Najeeb who has gone missing, he is referred to as the accused in the press release. However, there’s no explanation as to why he has been branded as the accused and the press release sounds more defensive than reassuring to the students.

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On the night of October 17, hundreds of students of JNU along with Najeeb’s family held a protest outside the Vasant Kunj Police station and signed a complaint letter demanding urgent action on part of the Delhi Police. The JNU Teachers’ Association also condemned the incident and termed it as a failure of the university administration in handling the matter. JNUSU has also announced a University strike on October 18 against the inaction by the JNU administration, asking them to ‘bring back Najeeb and ensure his safety’ and demanding punishment for ‘perpetrators of mob violence and communal hate mongering’.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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