Where is Najeeb? An appeal for intervention in the case of Najeeb Ahmed (JNU)
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The Hon’ble President of India
Visitor of Jawaharlal Nehru University
October 15, 2017
Subject: An appeal for intervention in the case of Najeeb Ahmed, a disappeared student from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Najeeb Ahmed’s mysterious disappearance on October 15, 2016, is an unprecedented tragedy in the history of Central Universities of this country. It is an extremely alarming situation that we are where we stood a year back, that is, there is no trace of Najeeb. This case is a matter of national shame that a student goes missing from a premier university located in the capital of this country, and the leading investigating agencies, like the Delhi Police, Crime Branch, and lately the Central Bureau of Investigation, have not been able to find any significant leads. Such apathy in spite of a Habeas Corpus petition filed in the Hon’ble Delhi High Court, wherein the police are required to produce the person within three months, seems to bear testimony to the failure of our autonomous and democratic state institutions.
Najeeb Ahmed, a first-year M.Sc. student of Biotechnology, disappeared from his hostel room at JNU in broad daylight. It was barely two months since he had joined the University. More importantly, Najeeb went missing after a brutal assault on him by identified persons on the intervening night of October 14-15, 2016. Several eye-witnesses have identified the assailants as belonging to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the students’ wing of the ruling party at the Centre. Notwithstanding the retribution, the eye-witnesses have named the persons who assaulted and intimidated Najeeb with a threat to life. They have repeatedly testified before the Delhi Police, Crime Branch and the CBI. However, all these investigation agencies are hell-bent on de-linking the assault and Najeeb’s eventual disappearance!
Throughout the year, Najeeb’s family is running from pillar to post seeking a speedy and fair inquiry. Besides the fact that there is no clue on Najeeb’s whereabouts, his family has been facing insurmountable threats and harassment from various quarters that intend to break their resolve in fighting this case, including the Delhi Police raids at odd-hours in Najeeb’s relatives’ house in spite of assured co-operation from their end. The most derogatory, atrocious and defamatory one was the allegation of influential national dailies that Najeeb was under the influence of a terrorist organisation (ISIS). The Delhi Police immediately clarified in their press conference that there was nothing in their investigation to suggest any link of Najeeb with ISIS. Even the judges made a similar observation based on the forensic analysis reports of Najeeb’s laptop and call records, which the police had filed in a sealed cover. Notwithstanding all refutations, the popular perception is going against Najeeb and his entire family, and they have been at the receiving end of hatred. This is a case beyond maligning the reputation of Najeeb and his family. Such communal profiling cannot be tolerated at any cost, which causes threat to life of the entire family and adversely affects the future prospects of the younger members.
It is more than five months since the matter of Najeeb’s disappearance has been transferred to the CBI, after the Delhi High Court found serious lapses in the working of the Crime Branch of Delhi Police. However, till date the CBI has not submitted the call records, location details and WhatsApp messages of the accused persons. Even the most basic step of registering a FIR against the accused is not done so far. There are enough witness statements with the CBI to make immediate arrests. What is the CBI waiting for? It shows that the investigation agencies are not interested in pursuing this line of inquiry and they are trying to shield those accused of perpetrating violence on Najeeb. Such partisan and indifferent attitude of the country’s foremost investigation agencies has been possible due to the connivance of the JNU administration.
The role of JNU administration, and particularly the Vice-Chancellor, in this entire episode, is far from what is expected from the head of an institution. As is common knowledge, the initial few hours, and days, are critical and decisive action is needed to recover clues and evidence to find the missing person. Faced with inaction from the administration, the JNU Students Union, JNU Teacher’s Association and JNU Alumni Association made several appeals to the V-C to take immediate action against the assaulters and play a proactive role in the process of finding Najeeb. None of this had any bearing on the V-C and rest of the administration.
Some glaring abdication of institutional responsibility without following the due processes of law, time-bound action and principles of natural justice during the last one year has exposed the criminal negligence and partisan role of the V-C and the administration, as stated below:
· The JNU administration did not recommend or allow a search of the campus with sniffer dogs in the immediate aftermath of Najeeb’s disappearance. By its own admission, the first time that the police and JNU security searched the forest areas of the campus was on 26 October, 11 days after Najeeb’s disappearance. Why did the JNU administration allow for crucial hours to be lost?
· Despite the 16th October wardens’ committee recommendation to punish those who assaulted Najeeb, the V-C did not file a FIR, on behalf of JNU as an institution, against those involved in the assault and on Najeeb’s subsequent disappearance. The administration maintained this adamant position despite persistent demands by students.
· The V-C also did not initiate an immediate enquiry into the violence against Najeeb, which took place in the presence of wardens and security guards. It is indeed surprising that an incident in which the Home Ministry formed a SIT was not worthy of an immediate enquiry by JNU administration! Despite independent eye-witness accounts and the minutes of 16th October warden committee meeting, all the statements issued by the JNU administration are silent on the violent assault on Najeeb.
· While Najeeb was suspended from the hostel immediately after the incident, a mere hostel transfer of the assailants “recommended” by the Proctor’s Enquiry Committee shows that the administration is steadfast in its refusal to take action against the assaulters and ensure that they go scot-free. The support of the JNU administration and the V-C to the prime suspects, in this case, is writ large.
· Why was no enquiry launched into the communalised statements such as ‘Muslims are terrorists’ that was found written in a hostel? Attempts to vitiate the atmosphere of the campus through communal polarisation remain unaddressed by the administration. It is pertinent to ask what steps, or even assurances, the university administration and the V-C took to ensure that communal polarisation does not take place on campus, that students, especially minority students, feel safe within the university?
· The V-C and his team also failed to inspire confidence of the family members and students, who are relentlessly pursuing this case to find Najeeb. Even as those who assaulted Najeeb have free access to the campus and its spaces, Najeeb’s mother and family members have not been given accommodation on campus and left to fend for themselves in their search for their son.
We—the undersigned students, teachers, staff and concerned citizens—bring to your attention this matter of grave concern in your capacity as the Visitor of Jawaharlal Nehru University. We are forced to approach this highest office of the country because all our efforts to persuade the V-C to rise above his ideological affiliation to the ruling party and ensure the safe return of a student have failed. Such shocking abdication of institutional responsibilities and the partisan role of JNU administration in shielding the perpetrators of violence and intimidation against a Muslim student cannot be allowed to become a norm. We come together to demand institutional accountability.
As the Visitor of the University, we appeal to you to prevail upon the V-C to constitute an enquiry committee, with members of proven integrity, for an unbiased investigation into the assault on Najeeb and set an example that Muslim students are secure within the university spaces. As the President and head of the country, we urge you to ensure that the agencies rise above political affiliations and pressures of the ruling government, and investigate the case without prejudice. We also come together to say it loud and clear that persecution, discrimination and disappearance of students from marginalised communities on any campus will not be tolerated.
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