Najeeb disappearance: Has Modi govt catapulted AVBP into a parallel power centre in Indian universities?

The Delhi High Court has rightly pulled up the police for failing to trace Najeeb Ahmed, a student of the Jawaharlal Nehru University who has been missing since October.

"It is over 50 days. Still you (police) do not know about his whereabouts. How can somebody vanish suddenly and police have no clue about it? Even if we think of the worst, something has to be found out. We are pained that the missing person has not been traced till date," a bench consisting of justices GS Sistani and Vinod Goel said.

 Najeeb disappearance: Has Modi govt catapulted AVBP into a parallel power centre in Indian universities?

Campus tensions. Image courtesy News18

Next week will mark two months since Najeeb disappeared from the JNU campus. Till date, the investigating agencies have failed to come up with any concrete information — reassuring or otherwise — about the student’s whereabouts. We don’t know what happened to Najeeb after he went missing following a physical scuffle with students of the BJP–backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

The police's lack of interest in fast–tracking the case is all the more glaring when considered in light of their swift reaction in acting against Najeeb’s family and the concerned student community. It can be argued that the police have been far more zealous in restraining Najeeb’s mother and family, who were protesting alongside the students, than in tracing the disappeared person.

Who can forget the disturbing media image last month of a distraught Fatima Nafees (Najeeb’s mother,) being dragged by the police outside the National Archives of India in Delhi while protesting alongside the JNU community?

"Najeeb’s mother, Fatima Nafees, was taken to Mayapuri police station, his cousin Sadaf Musharraf and other family members were taken to Mandir Marg police station. The protesting students were also detained and taken to South Avenue police station," said a report in The Indian Express.

If the police have been dragging their feet, so have the JNU authorities. If Najeeb's family — particularly his mother — and campus Left student organisations did not refuse to back off, neither university authorities nor the police would have done even the bare minimum that they have so far. Even these bare minimum interventions on the part of JNU authorities have been far too little, and perhaps already, too late.

Earlier this week — nearly two months after Najeeb went missing — the university administration finally sat up.

They "identified" four ABVP activists as having been involved in a "scuffle" with Najeeb. In a lenient punishment, the administration recommended the students’ "immediate transfer" from their hostels alongside a "strong warning" not to engage in such "scuffles" in future.

The lackadaisical response of the police and university authorities to Najeeb’s disappearance represents a microcosm of the state of affairs in India. The systems in place to supposedly guarantee citizens’ safety and security are willfully manipulated to serve the interests of politicians and those in power.

Given the larger context of the politicisation of the police, and the immediate memory of the bitterness between JNU students and Central government, the callousness in Najeeb’s case, does not really come as a surprise. Nor is it particularly shocking that university authorities – not just in JNU but across India’s higher educational institutions – are treating the ABVP with kid gloves. This student organisation, as everyone can plainly see, operates more like an ideological and political arm of the BJP and less like an organisation concerned with issues on campus plaguing the student community.

Updated Date: Dec 10, 2016 22:12:30 IST