Hindutva Terror in JNU: Student Najeeb Still Missing
JNU remains on the boil ever since the disappearance of the first-year Biotechnology student Najeeb Ahmad. Hundreds of students are agitating against callousness and inaction of the university administration, the police and the Government. Several modes of protests—holding sit-in, blockading Vice-Chancellor, marching to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and forming a human chain —have been deployed for bringing him back and punishing the culprits. Najeeb, till the time the piece is written, is still missing.
His disappearance, first reported on October 15, was preceded by an act of brutal violence by the members of RSS-affiliated ABVP. On the previous night, dozens of students associated with ABVP brutally beat Najeeb and made him, according to the eyewitness accounts, bleed from mouth and nose.
This incident of violence, as many argue, shares many features of the Dadri incident. Last year, a mob, led by Hindutva forces, lynched and killed 52-year old Mohammad Akhlaq Saifi of Dadri district (UP), much in the same way a gang of 20-30 ABVP members brutally assaulted Najeeb. Just as Hindutva forces incited a mob against Akhlaq on the suspicion of his possessing beef, similarly the ABVP set its activists on Najeeb over the charges that Najeeb had “hurt” their “religious sentiments”. The ABVP’s narration has it that he slapped an ABVP member, Vikrant, for wearing kalava, a sacred thread tied on wrists of Hindus during prayers and other religious ceremonies. The ABVP has appropriated this symbol with its members often flaunting kalava so as to assert their Hindu identity.
Contrary to the allegation of the ABVP, the 15-October report— signed by the senior warden of Mahi-Mandavi hostel and others—nowhere has references to Najeeb’s hurting religious sentiments or his objection to wearing kalava.
Similarly, several eyewitness accounts testify to mob attack on Najeeb. Shahid Raza Khan, an eyewitness, hostel-mate of Najeeb and M. Phil student of School of International Studies (SIS) at JNU, told the news agency IANS that on the night of fourteenth October he “heard some noise” and went to the first floor to see Najeeb who was “bleeding from the mouth and nose. We called the warden and took Najeeb to the bathroom for a wash. But in no time about 25-30 other students came and thrashed Najeeb inside the bathroom.”
Next, “He [Najeeb]”, Khan added, “was beaten up on the stairs and even as the warden unlocked his office. It looked completely like lynching. Upstairs someone turned off the corridor lights, and Najeeb was beaten in the dark.” Apart from the act of physical violence, abuses targeting Muslim community were hurled by ABVP members in the public. “Isko 72 houron ke paas bhejna hain (We will send him to 72 virgins)” was shouted to threaten Najeeb, according to Khan.
Anti-Muslim remarks by the ABVP has also been taken note of by the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association (BAPSA), a student organisation active in JNU with an agenda of forging a unity of the oppressed sections such as Dalits, Adivasi, lower castes, minorities and other classes against Brahminical forces. As a recent pamphlet of the BAPSA expresses concern: “The ABVP goons are threatening and intimidating Muslim students of Mahi-Mandavi hostel by saying them terrorist and Pakistani. It has been noticed that the ABVP lumpen has written [calling] ‘Muslims are terrorists’ and other offensive statements on the table of common room.”
Apart from the communal politics of the Hindutva forces, the JNU administration has also drawn flak from several quarters. The eyewitness Khan, like many others, is shocked to observe the partisan and insensitive attitude of the administration. In the perceptions of the wider student community, the administration worked in a biased manner from the day of the incident till today.
Along with Khan, JNUSU, in its official position, has criticised the role of the administration: “a student of this campus” was “mob lynched in front of his fellow hostel residents, Warden, and security officer—all of whom witnessed the heinous lynching and intimidation of Najeeb”, read a JNU pamphlet issued on 18 October.
While JNUSU is right to criticise the university administration for its callous role, it has also come under attack for failing to give radical direction to the struggle. For example, the BAPSA alleged it of having a “negligent, opportunist and compromising attitude” in its pamphlet issued on October 23. Much of BAPSA’s criticism about the JNUSU is shared by a large section of common students as the JNUSU leaders unilaterally decided to call off 22-hour long blockade of the Vice-Chancellor (on October 20). Most of the students were of the view that the blockade of the Vice-Chancellor should have continued till he accepted their demands to file an FIR against the culprits and speed up the enquiry to find Najeeb.
Amid all this, the atmosphere within the campus remains tense. With the Hindutva forces doing everything to spit the venom of communal hatred, Muslim students are forced to live in a state of fear. “If we were not Muslims, we would not have not attacked like this”, rued a Muslim student of the campus. Their fear is also caused by the lack of enthusiastic responses from the larger civil society for the cause of Najeeb. The support for Najeeb, many students lament, is far less than one given to JNU in relation to the February 9 incident.
Is this due to Najeeb’s Muslim identity? Many answer this in affirmative. However, Najeeb’s sister, Sadaf Musharraf, does not believe that the justice for her brother is a religious issue. Standing along with her ailing mother, she made it clear in a moving speech delivered before hundreds of students of JNU. Warning people against looking it from religious lens, she said: “This is”, The Telegraph quoted her speech the next day (October 20), “not about my brother. It can happen to anyone. I scolded a girl for saying this is a Hindu-Muslims thing. It is not. If it was, then so many of you wouldn’t come here to support us.”
But her speech has not been able to remove the fear among Muslims. Questions like this continue to haunt many. If Muslim students are not safe in the country’s prestigious university known for its secular and progressive atmosphere, where else will they be?
Abhay Kumar is pursuing PhD at Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He may be contacted at debatingissues$gmail.com