Wednesday, May 29, 2024

7 years of JNU student Najeeb’s disappearance, “case of nation’s indifference to a Muslim identity”

Najeeb Ahmed’s father wants to install a nameplate outside his house bearing the names of his three sons so that when he returns he can easily recognize his home in Uttar Pradesh’s Badaun.

“Whenever he will come, it will not take him a second to recognize his home. He is not a child, he cherishes his home”, Fatima Nafees responds to her husband’s idea.

It has been 7 years since Najeeb Ahmed, a first-year MSc Biotechnology student was ‘abducted and disappeared’ from outside his hostel at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi by the members of Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a student wing of Hindutva militant group, Rashtriya Swayem Sewak Sangh (RSS).

Initially, his case was investigated by the country’s top investigation agencies including the Delhi Police, Special Investigation Team, Crime Branch of Delhi Police, and eventually the Central Bureau of Investigation.

All of the agencies individually and collectively, however, couldn’t find a trace of the disappeared Najeeb and even after seven years his whereabouts remain unknown.


“These agencies failed my aspirations and the idea of justice, but I believe that he is still alive and among us”, said Nafees.

She has not given up all hope of seeing his son with her own eyes.

She said, “I think they have kept him in some jail and one day we all will see him coming back.”

She has written a letter to the CBI to search Najeeb in the jails of Delhi and other states.

“I have urged the agency to find him in the jails using his photo, maybe they can find him by picture if not name, but we can only write, that all the agencies have failed me.”

“We have reconstructed our house recently because it was an old building, my husband was saying that he would put up a nameplate outside, if Najeeb comes he won’t be able to recognize it as it looks different. Can he forget a place he grew up in? He will come running,” she asked with a short-lived laugh.

Shared pain of a mother

She believes that Muslim youths are being disappeared by the state either by jailing them unnecessarily or putting cases on them.

“There are hundreds of Muslim youth jailed without any crime, putting Najeeb will just add to the number. There is no value of a Muslim life in India,” she said.

She also mentioned Sharjeel Imam, Umar Khalid, Khalid Saifi, Meeran Haider, and others who are landing in jail for either protesting the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act or for their alleged role in ‘inciting Delhi Riots’.

“Just like me, mother of these youths are looking for justice in darkness and I pray for all of them and their children. No mother can endure the pain of being separated from their children, yet we all cling to hope. Hope to find justice,” said Nafees.

Incomplete happiness

Nafees’s two sons other than Najeeb, Haseeb, and Mujeeb are progressing in life and their sister is also achieving her goals. One of them is set to get married in a few months but they all see their celebrations and progress in life incomplete without one of their family member and the eldest sibling among them.

“Every happy event in our life is incomplete without Najeeb, nothing makes us happy. This is life and we have to live, so we are living but without our son,” Nafees said in a cracked voice over the phone.

A selfless move

Like every year students’ organizations at JNU and other universities have called for a remembrance protest marking 7 years of Najeeb Ahmed’s disappearance from the campus.

Nafees however has stopped going to the protests on the campuses and kept the struggle to demand justice between courts and herself because her health doesn’t allow that and, “I don’t want any harm for anyone’s child environment of the country is more vulnerable at the moment, if there is a police action on students because of my presence or Najeeb’s cause, one more mother will suffer, I don’t want.”

“These days they put everyone in jail who questions them, if someone goes to jail because of me, what will I tell to their parents”, she added.

She also said, “There were some people who were genuine with me, they still are but some of them used Najeeb’s case to polish their politics, they only came to click pictures, be it politicians or student leaders.”

“This is my struggle and I will fight it on my own.”

Undying belief

Talking of hope and justice, Nafees firmly hold on to her faith and her Creator’s will. “My faith keeps me going; otherwise I would have lost it to these vile people. The reason I am still fighting is my faith. I draw strength from it. Allah has a plan and His plan is better than all the plans”, she said.

“I am sure one day I will find justice. This state has failed me, but, my Allah will never fail me, if not today in this world, justice will be served on the day of resurrection, on the day of judgement, and it will be served. That will be the real justice,” she affirmed.

Soon after Najeeb Ahmed’s disappearance, there were protests all over the country demanding an investigation and justice. Student communities, organizations, unions, and even politicians of opposition parties participated in the rallies and events.

Over the years, these physical protests decreased and slowly disappeared from the public domain except for the yearly protests on some university campuses including Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Millia Islamia, JNU, and others.

Ramees EK, National President of the Students Islamic Organisation (SIO) however sees these yearly commemorations as an act of remembrance.

Ramees EK told Maktoob, “Even these yearly protests are a reminder to the state that the memory of injustice has not been erased from the people’s memory. It ensures that people remember what happened with Najeeb Ahmed is wrong and they register their anger in the form of remembrance and protests.”

“However, the state couldn’t ensure justice for Najeeb and his family all these years. The definition of justice in India has also changed over the years, especially if you are a Muslim.”

“For the people who are wrongly persecuted by the state for years, getting a bail order, and talking to the family has now become justice but in reality, the justice should be their fair acquittal with utmost respect because they’ve not done anything wrong”, said president of SIO.

“Similarly in Najeeb’s case, absolute justice would be seeing him again, but the state and its agencies couldn’t find him in all these years, what would be justice for him and his family if not seeing him back,” he asserted.

He added, “On top of that the people involved in his abduction and disappearance are not punished yet and probably roaming freely with protection.”

On the other hand, Sumeet Samos, an author and singer believed that the call for justice for Najeeb faded away because the students active on the campus in 2016, are now no longer a part of the university or moved on to other spheres of life.

“For the present students at JNU or other campuses, there is less and improper mobilization or sensitization about the Najeeb movement, or what happened with Najeeb, hence we cannot see enough resistance”, Samos told Maktoob.

Samos has closely been a part of the ‘Najeeb Movement’, as he calls it, “Those who are aware of the significance and nature of Najeeb’s disappearance either fear the state repression and crackdown on dissent or they are doing convenient politics.”

By ‘convenient politics’, he meant, “they speak up on the issues that concern them and stay away from the others, keeping themselves in a very safe position.”

He also said that Najeeb’s case is “a case of Nation’s indifference to a Muslim identity.”

“If it was a case pertaining to the identity other than Muslims, SCs, STs, or any other marginalized group, things would have been different. I am not sure about justice, but things concerning movement or response of the civil society would not have been what we are witnessing in Najeeb’s case,” said Samos.

He also said that people who claimed to be student leaders at that time at JNU have now secured seats and positions in political parties and “they used Najeeb and his movement as a pawn to build their careers.”


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