It has been two months since MSc student of Biotechnology, Najeeb Ahmed, went missing from the Jawaharlal Nehru University's (JNU) Mahi-Mandvi hostel after an altercation with ABVP members. Since then, his mother, Fatima Nafees, has raised slogans, cried on the shoulders of other students, and picketed the campus so that her son can be found. His friends and fellow JNU students have defied rules to put pressure on the government and the university.
Two months on, as the Delhi High Court have asked the police to use sniffer dogs across the JNU and the Jamia Milia campuses, the law enforcement officials seem as clueless as they were when the 27-year-old student went missing. JNU is cracking down on protesting students holding posters asking the pertinent question, "Where is Najeeb?"
Earlier, the Delhi police had suggested that Najeeb was mentally disturbed even as his mother and students of JNU took out marches and protests in a bid to speed up the process of investigation.
It was only yesterday that Najeeb's mother thanked students, and even politicians who turned up for protests, for standing by her.
The Indian Express quoted her as saying, "Keep standing with me till we find Najeeb. What they've done to my son is unjust, and it's important to stand with injustice. Hindu, Muslim, party wale, sab mere saath hain. Main bohot khush hoon. You all are my strength, and my biggest strength are the students of JNU who have been standing with me from the start."
She said this at a gathering of people who marched to Parliament.
JNU Crackdown On Protests
Reports are emerging almost on a daily basis suggest that JNU is trying to minimise protests that has been drawing negative attention to the university which had initially tagged Najeeb as the 'accused'.
Earlier this week it was reported that iron grilles and flower pots had mysteriously appeared at the place that earned the name of 'Freedom Square' after Kanhaiya Kumar's 'Azadi' speech.
The Hindustan Times quoted JNUSU president Mohit Pandey as saying, "We were holding a march against the VC's decision to give a token punishment to the ABVP members for beating Najeeb. When we came to the admin block we saw these cage-like structures."
"First they sent show-cause notices to us on various issues, then they stopped us from protesting and now they have blocked the area. Why is the VC so scared of students?" Pandey told the newspaper.
Another report in The Indian Express said that while flower pots were placed at the area of protest near the administrative block, JNUSU students re-arranged the pots to spell Najeebs name.
JNU in a notice also informed students that hunger strikes and dharnas could not take place within 20 metres from the administrative and academic buildings.
According to The Indian Express the notice said, ""All forms of coercion such as gheraos, sit-ins or any variation of the same, which disrupts normal academic and administrative functioning of the university, stand prohibited. Legitimate political activity, such as debates at GBMs and UGBMs, issue of pamphlets etc, are excluded from this norm, provided they do not incite or lead to violence, civic hatred or indecent actions, etc."
The Investigation So Far
Late last month, a proctorial enquiry by JNU found ABVP member Vikrant Kumar guilty of assaulting Najeeb during a brawl following which the latter went missing over a month ago. In an official order JNU said, "In the proctorial enquiry, Vikrant Kumar has been found to be involved in hitting Najeeb Ahmed and using derogatory language with provocative behaviour on October 14. This is an act of indiscipline and misconduct."
However, ABVP member Saurabh Sharma dismissed it saying, "The proctor has taken deposition of those students into account who were not even present there. Not only the enquiry is biased but even the administration is siding with the left-dominated students union."
And as students built pressure on the government to take action, Human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar questioned protests saying the police was doing its job.
"I believe that ultimately police will be able to find him, and we also hope that he will be fine and healthy. That's what our good wishes are. The issue is, it is a case of a missing student and, therefore, we must help the police by giving any possible leads. Agitation is right, but agitation for a thing that is beyond the control of the VC – how can you do that? I think giving leads is the way forward," Javadekar told The Hindustan Times in an interview.
And while the government backed the police, the Delhi High Court has repeatedly expressed concern over the matter.
Last month a bench of justices GS Sistani and Vinod Goel had told the Delhi police, "This is the heart of India, the national capital. No one can just disappear from here. It creates a sense of insecurity in people. If he disappeared, then there is something more to that. All angles have to be explored. 45 days is a long period for someone to be underground," it said to the police which is of the view that Najeeb was "not forcefully abducted".
Earlier this week it was reported that the Delhi police had 11 search teams have been investigating round-the-clock. PTI had reported that the police had raised the reward amount from ₹5 lakh to ₹10 lakh.
The police still do not have a lead. The police so far know that Najeeb has taken an auto the day he went missing.
"We have been able to trace the movement of Ahmed on 15 October — the day he went missing. He took an auto from JNU and reached Jamia Millia Islamia campus. He had taken the auto himself and wasn't accompanied by anyone," a senior police officer had said.
The police have also, according to PTI sources, is now investigating all probable angles rather than focusing on any one perspective -- that Najeeb was mentally ill.