Bring Back Najeeb Ahmed to JNU: A Call to Resist Terror in Universities

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It is now more than a week since Najeeb Ahmed, an MSc (first year) student of Biotechnology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi has been reported missing, after an altercation with members of the RSS affiliated ABVP student organization, which reportedly left him injured and severely traumatized.

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Several students who were present at the Mahi Mandavi Hostel in JNU campus (which Najeeb recently joined as a student) have reported that following an intense argument with an ABVP activist who was campaigning for Hostel elections, Najeeb was nearly lynched by a mob of ABVP members, who reportedly threatened to ‘send him to meet the 72 houris (virgins)’ – a clear indication of their lethal intent.

Here is a report on youtube that has a JNU student who was present while Najeeb was being attacked recounting what happened.

Najeeb was clearly traumatized by the incident, and his roommate has reported that though he was taken to a medical facility in an ambulance, he refused medical attention. He also spoke to his mother in Badayun, Uttat Pradesh, at 2:00 am, clearly marking his intense distress.

The subsequent morning, Najeeb Ahmed was reported missing from the hostel. His phone was left behind in his room. It has been nine days since this happened and there is still no trace of Najeeb.

What is alarming is the callous and partisan way in which the JNU vice-chancellor and the university administration have responded to this situation. From refusing to file an FIR at the local police station (with the excuse that his family-members had already filed one) to issuing press releases that cite Najeeb as an ‘accused’, to implicitly shielding the ABVP thugs who attacked Najeeb, the JNU administration has once again demonstrated that it is acting at the behest of a regime that is intent on attacking and targeting young people, especially those who are dalits, members of minority communities, and all those who dissent with the current right-wing dispensation. The parallels with the unfortunate set of circumstances that led to the tragic suicide of the dalit student activist Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad Central University only a few months earlier are obvious. In both instances, a student who stands up to the thuggery and insolence of right-wing goons is viciously attacked, and the authorities stand-by, blame the victim, and shield the attackers.

It was the same ABVP in HCU that had targeted Rohith Vemula, the same ABVP in JNU that had precipitated the crisis of 9th February this year that led to the arrest of three JNU students – Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, and it is the same ABVP that has now reportedly attacked Najeeb Ahmed. In all three instances the ABVP, whether at HCU, or at JNU, could count on its mentors and patrons in the highest echelons of the university administration to provide it with what street parlance in India calls ‘back’ – tacit support for vicious hatred when required, and a convenient turning of a blind eye to episodes of assault and victimization when necessary.

These incidents are not mere accidents, they constitute a pattern of behavior intended to send out a clear signal – universities and places of learning are now battlegrounds, there is a war on the young, and students recruited by right-wing militias have been given an informal carte-blanche to do as they want.

For the last few days, students in JNU, at the initiative of the newly reconstituted students union,  as well as through actions organized by independent student bodies and associations, have expressed their deep concern through acts of civic protest both on campus and in the city.

These have included a peaceful sit in, in front of the vice-chancellor’s office, which was erroneously described by the Vice Chancellor as a coercive siege (it was nothing of that sort, the students categorically did not ‘block’ exit from the building, or use violence, and in fact had even sent in food and medicines, had clearly stated that any administration officials who were unwell could leave freely, and had merely stated that should the vice chancellor choose to leave, they would ensure that he would have to leave by stepping on their prone bodies). Apart from this students, both under the banner of JNUSU, and an independent #JusticeforNajeeb campaign, have organized marches and gatherings on campus in the last few days.

Najeeb’s family, his mother and sister, as well as others, have been present with the students, and the students are doing all they can to offer them help, solidarity and emotional support.

Students have also mobilized demonstrations in the city. Their effort at gathering outside the Ministry of Home Affairs was thwarted by Delhi Police, and several hundred students were detained at Parliament Street Police Station and subjected to the rough edge of the protective ‘custody’ of the Delhi Police.

 

Plans for further protests in JNU, Delhi University, and other institutions are also being finalized for the coming days.

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As each day wanes, each passing hour begins to count. So far, the response of the the university authorities has only demonstrated a sickening, callous, smugness. They have humiliated members of Najee’s family, insulted the students and demonstrated a singular lack of concern. While it is imperative that students should not lose hope about Najeeb being found safe and in good health, should anything untoward happen, or have happened to Najeeb Ahmed – the JNU vice chancellor and his bosses in the government should be held singularly responsible for creating and helping maintain a climate where right wing thugs can humiliate vulnerable students with impunity.

Immediately, it is imperative that the university authorities take steps to ensure that Najeeb Ahmed can return without fear to his university. This requires ensuring that those who attacked him be placed under conditions of some restraint, so that Najeeb can return without fear of being attacked again. This can be done even while an enquiry into the incident is underway. There are some who seem to suggest that placing a  provisional restraining order on the ABVP activists who attacked Najeeb would be seen as ‘bias’, especially since in the aftermath of the 9th February, JNU students strenuously objected to any restraints or disciplinary actions on the students who were accused then of ‘sedition’. The comparison is totally misplaced. None of the named or unnamed students involved in the 9th February incidents took recourse to any violence. They did not physically attack or intimidate any other students. They had expressed, or had been seen to have not resisted the expression of, sentiments and slogans that are at variance to the prevailing nationalist consensus on Kashmir. That is not a crime. Any comparison between the totally peaceable raising of slogans and the actions of lynch mob is specious. And the attempt by the university authorities, or those pretending to offer ‘responsible counsel’ to equate these two diametrically opposed kinds of acts must be exposed for what it is – plain hypocrisy.

The 9th of February incident and the tragic suicide of Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad  had brought out a large wave of general public sympathy for the embattled students of JNU and HCU. It is time that the same amount of concern and sympathy actively demonstrate itself in this instance as well, firstly to ensure that Najeeb Ahmed, wherever he is or may be, can return safe and sound to his university, and more generally, in order to ensure that our universities do not become the graveyards of the dreams, hopes and aspirations of an entire generation.

One can only end with an appeal to the public at large to  please help in finding and bringing back Najeeb to JNU.

Additionally, one can only urge students, young people, teachers, intellectuals, workers and all members of the general public to act unitedly to ensure that the impunity with which right wing thugs are operating is effectively resisted so as to ensure that universities and all public spaces remain safe, inclusive and peaceable. No student, anywhere, should have to undergo the humiliation that visited Najeeb Ahmed, ever.

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For more information and updates, please visit the Justice for Najeeb Facebook Page

Videos, courtesy Samim Asgor Ali, and the Justice for Najeeb Facebook Page.

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