JNU missing student: Amid protests, fear of campus attracting unwanted reputation

In the fight between “communist kutte” and “sanghi goons” JNU is being haunted by a spectre: the intellectual edifice of this great institution seems to be crumbling. In the badlands of some of the north Indian states, where university campuses and hostels double as the dens for aspiring mafias and politicians; their dark corridors are lit by the tales of point-blank shootings and intense rivalries between two or more contending groups.

JNU (which is majorly populated by the students of the same states), however, was always a campus where battles were fought on ideological turf, though with similar intensity.

The curious case of Najeeb Ahmed, a student of MSc, who has been missing since 11 am on 15 October after an alleged altercation with students belonging to the ABVP at the Mahi-Mandavi hostel and the protest that followed, is indicative of all that has gone wrong with the campus.

 JNU missing student: Amid protests, fear of campus attracting unwanted reputation

File image of the JNU campus. JNU website

The incident is indicative of two things: (1) an impending tragedy which can completely transform the narrative of the campus if the allegations of kidnapping and physical harm to Ahmed by ABVP 'goons' come out to be true, (2) the convenient double standards of Left establishment in the campus and further decline of ‘Right’ discourse represented by ABVP.

In the first case, any mishap to the missing student and any proved culpability of ABVP coming to light, JNU would easily slip in the list of the universities where muscle power rules the roast. While this outcome will be ascertained in future, the second indication is reflective of a problem no less serious.

Najeeb Ahmed is missing for six days which is a matter of utmost concern. But some of the demands made by the Left parties only reflect their double standards. Protesting students are demanding immediate action against the ‘accused’ students who allegedly assaulted and ‘kidnapped' Ahmed.

According to a Times of India report Chintamani Mahapatra, rector -1, commenting upon the demand of making the students who allegedly assaulted Ahmed out of bound from hostels, said: "How can we take such as decision until the investigation is completed. We are expediting the process. In the first warden meeting Ahmed himself admitted that he assaulted and a decision was taken against him. But no action was taken and the second meeting deferred the decision. So there is a due process which needs to be followed for everything. Otherwise how can the administration run?"

The reason provided by the rector holds ground. Just a few months ago, in the wake of then JNU Student Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar arrest and the large scale protest that ensued, high-level inquiry committee was formed to investigate the 9 February incident when allegedly anti-India slogans were raised.

The inquiry committee recommended the rustication of Anirban Bhattacharya and Umar Khalid for a certain period and also imposed fine on some students including JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar. The committee’s findings and the decision were out rightly rejected by the Left parties as it was seen ‘unfair’ and ‘arbitrary’. Protesting students then did not have any faith in the JNU administration.

As reported by The Indian Express, Kanhaiya Kumar had said, “We have rejected the so-called high-level enquiry committee right from the day it was set up as an undemocratic and biased one so there is no point accepting the punishment meted out to us on basis of its findings.”

Within six months the same authorities are being pressurised to punish some students without a proper investigation in the case. There seems to be a sudden emergence of faith in the JNU administration.

Taking note of the protests, home minister Rajnath Singh, on Thursday asked Delhi Police Commissioner Alok Kumar Verma for a detailed report on the issue. This will surely speed up the search operation of the missing student. But amid all this, the method of the protest by students is being criticised by many, including the JNU Teachers' Association.

Now consider this: As reported by The Times of India, ABVP Delhi joint secretary and student at School of International Studies, Ravi Ranjan Chaudhary, when asked about the incident reportedly said that the hostel committee elections are on and four of their member had gone to Najeeb's room to campaign in Mahi hostel. He added that “One of them, Vikrant, a third year BA student at School of Languages, 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”.

This explanation given by Chaudhary is widely circulated in the university campus and have given the entire incident a communal hue. While talking to students, the plausibility of this claim becomes doubtful. It looks more like a hearsay spread by certain students, which is being established as truth by its constant repetition.

While most of the protesting students and Left parties are trying to avoid communalising the issue, the communal angel is still being projected by certain students.

On 16 October in a Facebook post about the incident, Anirban Bhattacharya's, who was one of the accused in 9 February incident said, “Najeeb was beaten up by a group of sanghi goons around Friday midnight" and also stated that someone has written on a table in the guest room of the hostel that "Muslims are terrorists'.

While ideological differences that result in fierce debates has been the norm of the JNU campus, the current allegations of criminal assault and communal profiling and targeting is something that has never come out in open, even if we assume that it had always existed silently at a subterranean level. However, what is bewildering and worrying for those who cherish any links with JNU is the fear of the university being branded as hub of criminals and communalist, after being tagged as ‘anti-national’.

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Updated Date: Oct 20, 2016 17:27:11 IST