By Ahmad Khan, TwoCircles.net
The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.
The formidable sentence that author Milan Kundera wrote more than 20 years ago in his celebrated work, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, has aged quite well. It has been four years since Najeeb Ahmed, a first-year MSC Biotechnology student in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), disappeared after being allegedly attacked by members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). His mother has still remained adamant to ensure her son does not slip from our collective memory. She is the living embodiment of one such struggle of memory against forgetting. She has been detained and dragged on streets on several occasions for merely taking out a peaceful demonstration for her son, but it could not break her fighting spirit. “I believe that nothing bad can happen to a person who is good at heart. Najeeb is alive,” she said last year in an interview to ThePrint.
She also called the investigation propelled by the Delhi Police and its Crime Branch along with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as “biased and partial” and accused Delhi Police of “inaction”. Come to think of it, a cursive look at the investigation done in Najeeb’s case does support her accusations.
It was on the night of October 14, 2016, when members of ABVP allegedly attacked Najeeb after they visited his Room 106 of Mahi-Mandavi hostel to seek votes for forthcoming elections. In the outset, a case was registered against 9 ABVP members for “thrashing” Najeeb and “threatening him with dire consequences”. As a first step, CBI sent mobile phones of the accused to Chandigarh’s Forensic Science Laboratory for analysis, but it was only able to extract data from 6 mobile phones. Three other phones were never scrutinized. It was stated that they could not be unlocked because they were protected by a pattern lock. It is vague why the three accused were not made to unlock them as Section 69 in The Information Technology Act, 2000 lucidly says that they were supposed to “extend all facilities and technical assistance” to “provide information stored” in their phone.
The Kafkaesque style of the investigation in Najeeb’s “political case” did not stop there. CBI has alleged that Delhi Police faked the statement of an auto-driver, who wrongly claimed that he drove Najeeb to Jamia Millia Islamia on the day of the disappearance. Along with that, the Delhi Police also used Najeeb’s medical history to try to assert that he was mentally unwell. However, his brother categorically denied the claim. In short, Delhi Police left no stone unturned to try to establish that Najeeb either went missing deliberately or the cause of his disappearance was his own ailment. The media was also adamant to compromise the already botched up investigation. On one occasion, Times of India and Zee News spread misinformation that Najeeb joined the terrorist organisation ISIS. Delhi Police debunked the false report and Najeeb’s mother sent a legal notice to these channels. Once again, no action was taken against them. The hostility towards Najeeb and the partisanship towards members of ABVP shown by the Police as well as later CBI further support accusations made by Najeeb’s mother. Last year, when the Delhi Court asked CBI whether Najeeb is dead or alive, it responded that “Najeeb was last time seen with his friend and he has been kept hidden.”
The story of Najeeb’s clandestine disappearance is still not limited to the failure of investigation agencies as CBI eventually declared him “untraced” and closed the case without giving his call data record to his mother. It is not limited to ABVP either. Najeeb’s disappearance is also a tale of betrayal from left parties like JNU Student Union, Students’ Federation of India (SFI), and All India Students Association (AISA). Apart from being complicit in subverting Najeeb’s disappearance, they also used it for their personal motives.
JNU student Sharjeel Imam has underscored it in an article titled, JNU and the politics of alienation: On AISA that failed a Muslim comrade, published on Firstpost. He wrote, “JNUSU President and AISA leader Mohit Pandey reached the spot during the violence (where ABVP members allegedly thrashed Najeeb) and witnessed it, but during the hearing in front of the warden, he failed to report the fact. He declared Najeeb as the offender, silenced his voice, and spoke against him. The warden then asked Najeeb to leave the hostel in six days. Najeeb disappeared the next morning…Instead of impeaching and punishing the president for silencing, instead of representing Najeeb’s side, the AISA-SFI union decided to take a different line. After the disappearance of Najeeb, they started defending Mohit Pandey and immediately communalized the issue, and declared that a “communally charged mob” beat Najeeb up, and hence Muslims in this campus should feel insecure. All of this was an exercise of misinformation and fear-mongering in order to hide their own president’s failure and frighten the Muslims into submission.”
Another JNU student and activist, Afreen Fatima, also highlighted the failure of left parties when it comes to Najeeb—and Muslim issues in general—in a Facebook post. She wrote, “Every year since Najeeb Bhai’s disappearance, left does token rallies and shout #WhereIsNajeeb and #WeAreNajeeb. And they shamelessly tell the Muslims in JNU to vote for them or else ABVP will win, but they fail to provide any security even in terms of solidarities to us…A committee set up by University administration, Abdul Nafey Committee, found that Muslim, Dalit, and Adivasi students were discriminated and given evidently fewer marks in Viva exams…A student is missing for 4 years and all the comrades can do is shout slogans…JNU has a history of disowning its Muslim students and being selective in its outrage when it comes to Muslim Issues. The sole reason for writing this on the night that Najeeb Bhai was brutalized is that it should not be seen in isolation. The left is answerable.”
Starting from the investigation agencies to Delhi Police to political parties and media channels, everyone has played at least some role in sabotaging the already hard struggle to find Najeeb, solely undertaken by his mother. But she has still not given up even after facing betrayal from the system. She still believes that one day, her son will be back. “He was abducted and has been kept somewhere. He will return. I will fight for his return. He is a very hard-working boy. He is not a quitter. He would never leave his mother like this, as being claimed by many,” she added during the interview with the ThePrint. After all, the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.
Ahmad Khan is a master’s student at Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and a freelance writer.