Najeeb Ahmad's mother with members of SDPI stages a protest to demand justice for her son
It is over two years since Najeeb Ahmad, a PhD student at JNU, disappeared from the campus. The night before, he was allegedly brutally assaulted by a mob of students claiming allegiance to the Vidyarthi Parishad. It is also alleged that he spoke derisively against Hindu religion which infuriated a section of students. As news of his disappearance spread, his family members and students of the university protested against the insensitive handling of the affair by the JNU administration. They also blamed the Delhi police for being lackadaisical in their efforts to trace the whereabouts of Najeeb and their failure to even question students who were part of the mob which had assaulted Najeeb. From the very beginning, the police and the JNU administration has tried to sell the whole episode as a fight between two student groups.
This however is not true. Even if we concede that Najeeb might have offended the religious sensibilities of some students, that is not a licence to nearly lynch him. The mater should have been reported to the concerned office within JNU and even a police complaint could have been lodged against him.
But then Najeeb became the precursor of what was to come later: the system of instant justice; where mobs lynch Muslims merely on the basis of suspicion, without any regret or remorse. In most cases, the police are more than willing to dilute cases against the accused and are reluctant to bring the culprits to book. Something similar happened in Najeeb’s case. The only time they started having some semblance of seriousness was when the courts told them to double their efforts to find the missing student. Random searches were made here and there just for appearance sake. But by then almost a year had elapsed and crucial evidence which might have given some clues about his whereabouts were lost. What was worse: malicious leaks were fed to a pliant media which started debating how Najeeb had joined the ISIS.
Two years later, the CBI has now filed a closure report in the case. Alarmingly, the High Court allowed the CBI to do so despite the protestations of the family concerned. One cannot even fathom what would be crossing the minds and hearts of Najeeb’s mother, who has been running from pillar to post to seek justice for her son. Her only consolation if at all it is one: there are many Najeebs who have been failed by the system.
But then, this story is not complete without calling out the system. And the system in this case did not just consist of those who assaulted Najeeb but also by those who claim to be his greatest benefactors. It is certainly true that Najeeb was assaulted by right wing hoodlums but then what of the other kind of violence which this fellow endured, something which perhaps was decisive in his decision to leave the campus. On the night of the assault, Najeeb was not offered any counselling although there is an on-campus medical facility. What is astounding is that the same night, he was humiliated and asked to leave the hostel, not just in presence of the wardens but also the president of the leftist student union.
As a fresher on campus, Najeeb must have heard that the Left student union would be sensitive and considerate, given his religious identity. This is not hard to believe: the left actually sells itself as the champion of minorities on campus. Imagine the mental agony of this student when he would have realised that no just the administration and the right wingers but also the leftists had turned against him.
Here was a boy, who had freshly got admission in one of the hostels in JNU and probably had heard much about the progressive and leftist traditions of JNU, was witnessing in front of him that the same left, in cahoots with the administration, was asking him to leave the hostel as a form of punishment. It was perhaps this realisation that made him leave the campus the following morning and left must be called out for its complicity in his disappearance. Who is to blame for his disappearance? Of course, the right-wing hoodlums who beat him up that night but then what about the glorious left which failed to protect him. And not just failed to protect him but in a way facilitated his forced exit from the campus.
It is rather hypocritical that the left has now Najeeb’s disappearance into an annual ritual and another occasion to hold candle light marches for him. This is nothing but pure and callous politics at its best. First you allow a person to get nearly lynched and then you do politics over his disappearance. It must be remembered that unlike many others who have been targeted by the system, Najeeb came from a very humble background. Lacking in social network, the family had no one but JNU students to bank upon in order to seek even a semblance of justice. But then, whether it is the left or the right, only those embedded in power networks have any hope of getting justice.
It is utterly shameful that a campus which prides itself over it sensitive and progressive character failed to even give a call for a day long strike to protest against Najeeb’s disappearance. The reluctance to take up the issue was visible right from the very beginning. It was actually the pressure of common students which forced the administration and leftists to join the struggle; otherwise they were mostly interested in burying the issue. The so-called progressive teachers of this campus acted as if nothing had happened. The very radical teacher’s union just sat quietly through the entire episode and did not even have the courage to protest against the administration. More importantly they refused to see the incident as one which involved the targeting of Muslim identity.
When we remember Najeeb year after year, let us not forget the dubious role that the left played in the entire incident.
Arshad Alam is a NewAgeIslam.com columnist
Courtesy: New Age Islam