Najeeb Ahmed row: JNU protests defy logic, will yield little for its present protagonists

The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus is once again reverberating with protests. Dharna pradarshans are being staged for last one week, human chains are being formed, ‘solidarity marches’ are being carried on with fascinating slogans; raised in full tempo: "Zulmi jab jab zulm karega satta ke hathiyaron se chappa chappa goonj uthe ga Najeeb Najeeb ke naaron se”.

New hashtag #JusticeforNajeeb is doing rounds and the obvious topping to this is a "Sanghi Vice chancellor” and “Dalal media” playing the perpetual ‘antagonist’.

Former JNU Student Union (JNUSU) vice-president Shehla Rashid on Sunday evening shared a Facebook post that read, “Our Sanghi Vice chancellor can only do one thing and that is TWEET and call the Dalal media. We have not confined you Shameless VC. Please come out of your soundproof room and listen to us. See how we students want our fellow student NAJEEB back among us safely”.

The post was in reaction to a series of tweets by the JNU Vice Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar, who on Sunday alleged that protesting students had blocked the entrance of his residence. In one of his tweets he said, “Agitating students.. please understand, by shouting slogans and blocking entrance to my residence, we cannot trace Najeeb".

 Najeeb Ahmed row: JNU protests defy logic, will yield little for its present protagonists

File photo of Jawaharlal Nehru University campus. Image courtesy News18

Another tweet by Kumar added, “Repeated appeals to cooperate and not agitate have fallen on deaf ears of student agitators. This is unfortunate."

As expected, Kumar was attacked for playing the “damsel in distress” and the victim, as many accused him of playing in the hands of the ‘sanghi goons’.

Following the arrest of former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar (in relation to 9 February incident) the protests that followed, garnered support from different quarters as it had an underlying logic to it. The support that poured in for a student leader, who allegedly participated in “anti-India" programme and was arrested like a local thug and slapped with a sedition charge, without any concrete evidence hinting at his culpability.

Merely nine months after that incident, a protest is again being held at the JNU campus, demanding quick action against the alleged culprits and against the "lackadaisical attitude of the JNU administration” in dealing with the issue of a missing student.

The ongoing protest at the JNU campus is in regard to missing 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. The intensity of the protest, the support it is attracting is nothing in comparison to post 9 February incident and the reason is obvious: The current protest, in spite of all its pretensions, is devoid of certain logic.

In a series of appeal that was posted on the official website of the university, the Vice-Chancellor has made it clear that “Efforts to keep in contact with the police are constantly on. The Vice-Chancellor of JNU is meeting the Police Commissioner on Monday morning in this regard. The JNU security is also on the vigil to locate him within the campus”.

In another appeal on Saturday, the JNU administration stated that “The missing of a student from the campus is everybody’s concern in JNU and the entire JNU community should make combined endeavours to trace Najeeb”.

All the appeals, however, have fallen flat to the shrill cries of protesting students, who on Sunday evening in large numbers marched to V-Cs house and held protests and demonstrations.

While fear of communalisation of the issue has been expressed by the JNU authorities and the police, the way the entire issue has been tackled has also given way to various conspiracy theories; some laughable, some raising concern and then some hinting at how JNU has become the microcosm of party-politics where winning the game by hook or crook remains the sole prerogative of its leaders.

According to some of the students in the campus, the entire twist given to the ‘minor’ fight between some students have been done deliberately. “During the current JNUSU elections, the Left parties felt their ground slipping so they joined hand together is spite of their intense ideological differences. They also felt threatened by the sudden rise of the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students' Association (BAPSA), which has gained good support from students belonging to Other Backward Castes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Muslim communities and also from the Kashmiris students,” said a student of School of International Studies.

He adds, “Left parties are using this incident to regain the ground they feel they have lost to BAPSA.”

While such theories can be ignored as ideologically and politically motivated, it speaks in volume how politicised the entire discourse on the campus has become. To an extent that, an unfortunate event of beating up of a student has led to fierce political allegations and counter allegations and communalisation of the entire issue.

While concern over the security of the missing student was expressed by some of the faculty members and protesting students when Firstpost spoke to them, it cannot be dismissed that what is apparently falling short of some justifiable logic is the method of protest that has rocked the campus.

With host new and of old faces, the current protests in JNU over the missing student looks nothing more than a turf war fought between contending ideologies, some with firm ground and some trying to make space.

Protest that followed the 9 February incident was waged in the name of free speech and expression and was against the arbitrariness of the sedition law. It had a well-crafted trajectory and a purpose. However, the current politics over the missing MSc student reminds one of the bewilderment of the Lewis Carroll’s Alice and ironically the honest remark of her Cheshire Puss (cat) that, whatever direction she takes, she is bound to encounter madness, defied of any concrete logic.

Given the fact that Home Minister himself has instructed the Delhi police to probe the case, it will not be too long now that police will be able to find Najeeb, or god forbid, will let the world know if something unfortunate happened to the 27-year-old student. Till then, however, JNU will be held hostage to a fierce ‘ideological’ war in which no matter which side you fall and what direction you take, madness will abound.

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Updated Date: Oct 24, 2016 11:58:16 IST