Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in the national capital has once again turned into a battleground. Outrage against anti-national sentiments and sexual assault charges has been national headlines, and now the case of a missing student has stirred this hot cauldron.
The mysterious disappearance of 27-year-old Najeeb Ahmed, an MSc student, has led to massive outrage at the varsity. "Justice for Najeeb" is what students address it as, but over all the commotion the cause is lost.
The matter has taken a political and communal turn and leaders and political factions are working hard to expand their votebanks.
Left-ruled student groups allege that the scuffle that took place between Najeeb and ABVP members was a planned one. Najeeb was in the hostel for 20 days, the ABVP group assaulted him and there was also a case of mob-lynching. On the other side, you have the BJP-backed ABVP claiming that Najeeb slapped their worker Vikrant Kumar because of a holy thread on his wrist.
Saurab Sharma of the ABVP went on to tell the media that "the Left ideologues" could even be the ones hiding him on campus. He compared the incident to when Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya (JNU students who were arrested on charges of sedition) were hiding inside the campus during the February 2016 incident.
A student is missing and his whereabouts are unknown. The police has announced Rs 50 000 for any information on Najeeb. A special investigative team has been set up on the instruction of home minister Rajnath Singh. The authorities are not sitting on the issue, that is for sure.
But are the students helping them in their efforts? Many students who took part in the protest did not know Najeeb. Students in his hostel did not know him. But many present at the protest venue described him as “earnest, honest, naïve and very bright” but no, they did not personally interact with him. It is a vast campus yes, but did this boy not have even one friend?
One of the demands the Left-ruled groups put out in their press statement was that they wanted the campus to be safe and secure. But when asked about setting up CCTV cameras around campus, they were against the surveillance. Probably, if the gates and junctions on campus had cameras, today we would have at least figured out whether Najeeb was on campus or not.
|The drama at JNU is endless. (Photo credit: India Today)|
JNU students held the vice-chancellor, proctor and other top faculty members hostage in the administrative block for over 22 hours. This was illegal and arbitrary. Was this right? I do not agree with the method. The demand that the search for Najeeb be expedited is justified but the means to that end are not.
Giving the protesters who laid siege the benefit of doubt, they claim they sent food for the faculty which remained untouched. They also said the building had a pantry of its own. So the claims of the V-C of not having access to proper food and water can be questioned. But yes, they are elderly and they suffer from various ailments, this cannot be over looked.
Students who participated in the march on Friday were not even aware of what they wanted. Many were scared that the police might detain them. But I must say a few others were enjoying the attention. Make-up on faces and hogging the media limelight. This after the incident where students misbehaved with the media after they let the V-C walk out.
The drama at JNU is endless, but the media still feasts on it. The students pushed against barricades and the Delhi Police, and then yelled at the police for touching them. All the while claiming they were holding a peaceful protest.
When a fellow journalist from Prime News, a Hindi channel, was talking to Shatrupa, general secretary of JNUSU, he asked: “The home ministry has commissioned a special team to look into the matter. Do you not trust the authorities in the government?” The instant answer was “down down, Sanghi channel”. Does a journalist not have the right to question anymore? It was beautiful television tamasha.
But one thing is for sure - all this hue and cry has covered up the main issue. Where is Najeeb and how can we get him back? If people believe he is on campus, then set up a committee and search all hostels and buildings on the premises at the same time. It is a huge campus and he could be anywhere.
And most importantly, the blame-game should stop. Votebanks should be the last priority now. Students should be united on the issue, not bully each other. The JNUSU acts as one but the internal friction is very evident. The Left is breaking up within itself and the ABVP is basking in this.
But once again, I must stress that losing and winning is restricted to elections. A missing student is much more and fighting over the matter with petty university politics in mind, is not in the best interests of his heartbroken mother, his weeping sister or even the few friends he made on campus.