One year has passed since Najeeb Ahmed was attacked by ABVP workers in Mahi-Mandavi Hostel on the night of 14th October, 2016 and then forced to disappear from the campus in the next day morning. The administration, rejecting even to file an FIR on the missing of a student of this University, came with a press release labelling Najeeb Ahmed as an accused in the incident of that night. Upon the complaint filed by Najeeb’s mother, Fathima Nafees, Delhi Police was forced to initiate an enquiry, which never touched the accused ABVP workers in the assault on Najeeb, and a complete non-co-operation from JNU administration delayed questioning them, and also delayed doing an immediate search around the campus. The farcical Proctorial enquiry, despite finding one ABVP worker as guilty, only ended up in a nominal action of hostel transfer to him.
Despite the presence of many witnesses to Najeeb being attacked in front of security staffs and Hostel wardens, the immediate steps of hostel authorities to ‘settle’ the issue still raises a lot of questions. With the then JNUSU president and SLL&CS Convener signing dubious documents naming Najeeb Ahmed as the accused, what were the ulterior motives behind this rush to ‘settle’ the issue so soon? How JNUSU justifies their failure in building up an effective movement demanding justice for Najeeb, including their unilateral decision to call off the Admin blockade which could have eventually put more pressure on the Administration in making some concrete steps? This naïve-ness in an issue concerning security of Muslim students in education institutions, shows nothing but double standard of the Left when it comes to the Muslim question.
Treating the case with non-seriousness, from the beginning itself, JNUSU’s moves always ended up as exhibitory and even mockery at some times, as they even dared to do a Diwali celebration, under the guise of demanding justice for Najeeb. To the extent that the left parties here were not even willing to address Najeeb issue as a Muslim question, and even branded groups made such assertions as sectarian. SIO of India has come forward to fight for justice for Najeeb and security for Muslim students in academic institutions with a mass supported memorandum to the National Commission for Minorities and raised the slogans of #MuslimLivesMatter. How does the Left explain their uneasiness in seeing Najeeb as a Muslim question, though they agree ‘Nirbhaya movement’ as a women question and ‘Justice for Rohit movement’ as a Dalit question? If they think Najeeb was attacked on just being a student, how do they look at the foul words used against Najeeb by ABVP workers at the time of attack, especially hinting at his Muslim identity?
Threats written on the Mahi-Mandavi mess hall, calling Muslims as terrorists and as supporters of Pakistan, and one of the witnesses’ account saying they even wanted to harm Najeeb’s life, shows the clear target, and it was not just an accidental scuffle, but a planned move to terrorize and terrify the Muslim students of this campus. The accused ABVP workers still roam free in the campus and one of them even contested the last union elections. Instead of addressing the inflicted fear on Muslim students, the union always stood away to face it, and not a single Muslim organization were invited to speak in multiple solidarity public meetings held during the movement.
These meetings always ended up becoming a public exhibition of social exclusion, despite the active participation of various parliamentary and non-parliamentary Muslim organizations in the movement demanding justice for Najeeb. The stages were always filled with mainstream ‘secular’ parties, who always made it a point to not treat Najeeb movement as a Muslim question. As Fatima Naseef asks, if it were happened to someone from another community, and Najeeb happens to be one of the accused, what all would have this nation done to Najeeb’s family, by now. Najeeb is a Muslim student, and even in the last protest public meeting at CBI, it was the absence of any Muslim organization in the invitees list, which became so prominent.
Just like the administrative system is as answerable, the campus community also should introspect on why there is very less participation as the movement goes forward? The absence of mainstream Left parties, and even the councilors of JNUSU during protests can be related not just to the lack of political commitment, but rather to the willingness on whether or not to stand with a movement concerning a Muslim question. While incidents of mob lynching by Gau-Rakshaks and subsequent legal impunity to them prevail in the country, if a similar mob attack on a Muslim student in a central University does not shake the conscience of Left parties, it also gives an apt answer to how they could easily and viciously attack Muslim organizations and groups just on the pretext that they were raising some religiously-oriented slogans in public.
Even the court criticized the ineffectiveness and biased investigation of Delhi police and Special Investigation Team, and subsequently handed over the case to CBI. The CBI also continues the same dilly-dally-ness by presenting older reports in subsequent hearings and also in not acknowledging that Najeeb Ahmed was attacked by ABVP workers before the day of his forced disappearance. Today in the latest hearing, the CBI lawyer shielded the accused on the pretext that they are students of JNU. The judges observed that if there is an allegation, then no matter who is involved it has to be investigated. There can be no excuse on the grounds that they are students. Delhi Police, despite failing to make any progress in enquiry, has manhandled Najeeb’s mother and dragged her through the roads in capital city, and even made raids to Najeeb’s relative’s house at odd hours. Though Delhi police rejected the allegation, no action was taken against newspapers who stated Najeeb has searched websites of IS, and also to the multiple rumors spread that he must have gone to join IS.
Always destined to carry a potential ‘terrorist’ mark on being a Muslim, multiple attempts at defaming Najeeb and his family were not at all resisted or curbed by authorities, and in fact were continued and added to the existing hate mongering against Muslims throughout the country. Najeeb’s forced disappearance clearly shows what it means to be a Muslim in contemporary India, and it’s not just one year of Muslim India, but rather Najeeb is a clear lens to see how Muslims have been treated in this country throughout the years, whether by the right wing or secular forces, academic institutions and also by the law enforcement authorities. Still, rather than becoming a symbol of despair and dissatisfaction, as Fatima Naseef has said, it is the hope in God and the relentless religious spirit, which also drives this justice for Najeeb movement, now.