By Pragya Pasricha:
Najeeb Ahmad, a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University, has been missing for the past 20 days after a scuffle between him and some members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in the University’s Mahi Mandavi hostel on the night of October 14. The administration and police have been accused of not taking sufficient action. The people involved in the events of that night are allegedly not being interrogated. Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union, many students of the hostel and even the JNU Teachers Association have alleged that Najeeb was physically assaulted and communally targeted by ABVP members. However, ABVP members have a different version of what happened that night and have accused JNUSU of politicising the matter. The only response from the University’s administration came three days after Najeeb went missing, in the form of a press release which branded Najeeb as ‘the accused’ even when there was no proof of what had happened that night. Due to the alleged inaction, various protests have been going on across the country since then.
Even on Diwali, many JNU students refused to celebrate; some even held a protest and lit up candles asking for justice for Najeeb.
In the light of all this, a public meeting was held at JNU’s Freedom Square on November 3 where various politicians from different political parties, professors and students came together to stand in solidarity with Najeeb’s family.
Before the event started, Saurabh Sharma, former Joint secretary of JNUSU said in a Facebook post, a conspiracy similar to the February 9 incident could be identified in this issue too and said that he and members of the ABVP would appeal to the administration to cancel the event as they believe that it’s a ploy to politicise the event further. Earlier in the day, the administration reportedly appealed to the students to stop protesting near the administration building. “Despite all efforts, pamphlets, posters, demonstrations, dharnas, unlawful confinement and offensive sloganeering have been going on to spread lies and to blame the administration and make unreasonable demands. Attempts are being made to disturb the normal functioning and conduct of academic activities including examinations,” the appeal said.
Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor said, “We are all here because something wrong has happened. And not enough is being done to right that wrong. We demand a thorough search, serious investigation in this matter. Those who have let this happen should check their conscience.” He also requested for a serious investigation that is independent of the college authorities and also questioned why the Delhi police and the Vice-chancellor did not search the campus immediately after Najeeb’s disappearance. Najeeb’s mother broke down during his speech and said, “Itni badi university hai, koi toh bata de mera Najeeb kaha hai.” (It’s such a big university, someone tell me where my Najeeb is.) After all that has happened, she said that she has lost faith in the University. All speakers promised her that they’d do everything in their power to find Najeeb.
Kavita Krishnan, the secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, also expressed her anguish over the Vice-Chancellor’s reaction. She said that the VC is very selectively active in voicing his concern and was quick to express his anguish on Twitter when the effigy burning incident took place last month but didn’t even acknowledge that a student has been assaulted in spite of the fact that various witnesses have come forward to vouch for that.
All the speakers supported the protests and have promised their full support for finding Najeeb. Other speakers included Mani Shankar Aiyar, professor Manoj Jha, professor Nivedita Menon and members of various student political parties. The event also saw students shouting slogans against the administration and politically charged posters.