India: Muslim student missing after 'thrashing' from right-wing activists, university on boil
The varsity administration has charged only Ahmed with fighting, not the ABVP activists. Photograph: (Others)
It has been four days since Najeeb Ahmed, a Master's student of biotechnology at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, went missing after being "beaten up" on campus by activists of the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
On Wednesday, Ahmed's parents waited anxiously for his return outside the administrative block of the university. Despite rumours on the campus, his mother hopes he will come back safely. Students' organisations, apart from the ABVP, are holding protest meetings in a bid to pressure the administration to come down hard on those accused of beating up Ahmed.
The administration, however, has held Ahmed an accused in the incident despite the fact that he was beaten up after which he disappeared from the campus. This is evident from the press release issued by the university administration.
Ahmed's parents, however, have filed a first information report (FIR) in which they have said that they fear their son has been abducted. Speculation that Ahmed might have left the campus on his own is also doing the rounds.
The JNU administration has not yet filed a case against the four accused ABVP activists, Vikrant, Vijendar, Ayush Bharadwaj and Ankit, for thrashing Ahmed, but has sought the help of the central investigating agency the CBI (Central of Bureau Investigation), and the National Crime Records Bureau.
The administration has also accused the students of giving the incident a communal colour. After Ahmed went missing, remarks like "All Muslims are terrorists" were found scrawled on the walls of hostels and in washrooms.
Ahmed joined JNU on August 1 and had been living there ever since, his batchmates said. They were shocked to read that he was accused of assaulting Vikrant, an ABVP member. It is alleged that Ahmed beat Vikrant when he went to Ahmed's room to collect funds for a hostel function.
"Why would Ahmed beat someone for wearing a red thread on his wrist? He was himself fond of several festivals celebrated by Hindus and would participate in them. It is not possible that he would beat someone for that," Ahmed's mother said to WION,
Recalling October 14, when the alleged incident took place, Anas, an eyewitness, told WION, "I was on the ground floor of the Mahi Mandvi hostel when I heard loud cries from the first floor. I rushed to the spot and saw Ahmed apologising with folded hands. ABVP guys were surrounding him -- beating him up one by one. They were also making communal remarks while doing that. One of them said, 'Let's send him to heaven today'."
Another eyewitness corroborated what Anas had to say, "I was campaigning in the Mahi Mandvi Hostel for the hostel committee polls when Vikrant came up to me and said that Ahmed had beaten him up on seeing a red thread on his wrist. But when I went to check Ahmed in his room, I found him bleeding from his nose. When I asked what was wrong, he remained quiet."
The guards reached the spot 10 to 15 minutes after the incident, the students told WION. Najeeb was reportedly dragged to the washroom where he was thrashed again by the ABVP boys. The G4S security guards, who normally record such incidents, did not do so this time.
The warden of the hostel, Sushil Kumar, intervened and took the men to the investigation room, where Ahmed was accused for the incident. A letter signed by different stakeholders, including the JNUSU (Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union) president Mohit Pandey, endorsed the decision of the warden to expel Ahmed from the hostel.
Talking to WION, Sushil Kumar said, "I held him guilty on account of the witnesses present in that room who stated that Najeeb had sought forgiveness by folding his hands." However, Najeeb's supporters believe that the witnesses cannot be believed since they are from the ABVP.
"The witnesses in the room belonged to the ABVP, the warden did not take this into cognisance. Besides, Ahmed merely folding his hands in front of people who were thrashing him does not prove his guilt," a student who was present when the incident took place told WION.
Following this, Ahmed called up his mother who lives in Uttar Pradesh and asked her to come to Delhi. She last spoke to Ahmed on the morning of October 15 when she reached Delhi, but was unable to find Najeeb in his hostel on the same day.
Ahmed's disappearance from the university has stoked fresh political protest on the campus. Students from different Left, Dalit and Muslim organisations are accusing the ABVP of having deliberately created a situation of communal discord in a bid to polarise students on the basis of religion. The ABVP, however, has accused Left organisations of giving the incident a communal colour.
Heba Ahmed, a student and activist of YFDA (Youth Forum for Discussions and Welfare Activities), a non-political group for Muslim students of JNU, said, "The pattern of ABVP-RSS-BJP constructing a discourse of Hindu victimhood is again at work. This time, instead of targeting a Dalit student, they have made a frontal attack on a Muslim. They chose their target for the lynch mob carefully: a Muslim student who is new on campus, and is friendless and defenceless. ABVP has alleged that Najeeb made a religiously motivated attack on their cadre campaigning for hostel elections. The fact that Najeeb was brutally lynched, even in front of the hostel warden, has been twisted and erased. The fact that a graffiti saying, 'Muslims Are Terrorists', 'Pakistani Mullah Go Back' have been left in the common room and the washroom of Mahi-Mandavi Hostel is being completely ignored by the administration. That even now the hostel in question resembles a war zone in which Muslim students still feel intimidated and threatened is not being considered. The administration has consistently refused to file an official complaint in this matter."
Saurabh Sharma, an ABVP activist and former JNUSU office-holder, told WION, "Our concern is that Najeeb should be found out and petty politics over the incident should end. It is absurd to hear that ABVP guys thrashed Najeeb, it is far from the truth. The matter had been resolved then and we have no role in his disappearance from the campus. Thousands of students from Jamia and Aligarh Muslim University are being mobilised. What does this indicate?"
Commenting on the politics of the entire episode, he said that a situation of panic and fear was being created in the country before the elections in Uttar Pradesh like was created before the Bihar elections on account of the lynching of Akhlaq in Dadri.
Amid all the tension that has gripped JNU, Najeeb's mother sits outside the university's administrative block, waiting for her son to come back.