Friday (October 15) marks the fifth anniversary of the disappearance of Najeeb Ahmad, a native of Badaun, Uttar Pradesh, and an MSc biotechnology student at one of the country's leading universities, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. Najeeb, a student in room 106 of the Mahi-Mandavi hostel in JNU, was brutally beaten by ABVP activists on the night of October 14, 2016, during a hostel election campaign. Friends who came to his rescue rushed him to the warden's room, where he was again assaulted by ABVP activists who used racist slurs against him. Najeeb has been missing since the next day. Surprisingly, even after five years of the disappearance of a student from a famous campus in the national capital, not a single clue has been found. It is a shame for the country that India's criminal investigation system is so inept. However, this is evidence of not the weakness of the probe team but of the clout of those who lead which must be considered as the real reason for not being able to find those who worked behind Najeeb's disappearance. At the onset of the case itself, there was an attempt to sabotage of probe by the JNU administration and Delhi Police. In the press release issued by the administration as student protests ensued, Najeeb was named as the 'culprit'. It was only after intense pressure from students that JNU officially filed a complaint about the disappearance. It was the will and fighting spirit of Najeeb's mother Fatima Nafees that kept the case alive. The struggle waged by the mother with the support of various backward and minority student organizations is still going on. The case is being investigated by the Delhi Vasant Kunj police. After constant pressure and struggle, the case was handed over to the Special Task Force and later to the CBI. Yet the case remains at the same point where it started. The only breakthrough was that the CBI disproved the Delhi Police's finding that Najeeb had got into an auto and gone to Jamia Millia.
The 'discovery' was fabricated by the Delhi Police to prove that Najeeb was not attacked or threatened but that he went somewhere by his own accord. In other words, the attempt of the police was not to locate Najeeb at the very beginning of the case, but instead to hide something. Now, Najeeb is still missing despite investigations by the local police, special task force and the CBI. Those who worked behind Najeeb's disappearance are still at large. Najeeb's incident has to be viewed in the backdrop of a wave of student protests on Indian campuses following the suicide of Rohit Vemula, a Dalit student at the University of Hyderabad. After the death of Rohit Vemula, resentment against Modi-led Hindutva projects was strong on campuses. The special discrimination faced by Dalit and Muslim students was also a big topic of discussion. It was a time when student agitations became a headache for the central government. For those to whom this was a pain, it must have felt like added trouble if the facts about Najeeb's disappearance came out. And maybe that is why the case remains unresolved after five years.
JNU is widely hailed as the birth-place of progressive and democratic movements in India. But the students' organisations and collectives that represent Dalit, Muslim students have pointed out time and again that anti-Dalit/Muslim sentiments persist behind its leftist progressive facade. Validating the criticism, leftists student organisations have largely kept mum and adopted a lethargic approach to Najeeb's disappearance. Thus currently it is the Dalit and Muslim student groups at JNU that are still keeping the Najeeb issue alive. Therefore, champions of democracy have an obligation to keep repeating the question of Najeeb's whereabouts, at least now when five years have lapsed since his disappearance.