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JNU Students Divided Over Calling off Gherao; Najeeb Still Missing

Students protesting admin inaction in the Najeeb Ahmed missing case are now divided over calling off the gherao.

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“I am sorry. It is too overwhelming to talk. Please excuse me.”

It has been almost seven days that Mujeeb has not heard of, or from his brother. Mujeeb’s mother and sister are at their wits’ end. Their voices muffled, they refuse to speak on camera in anticipation of being emotionally compromised.

Najeeb Ahmed, an MSc first year student, went missing from his hostel room in the Jawaharlal University campus on Saturday, following an alleged altercation with a bunch of ABVP members. The central university campus hasn’t been quiet since.

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Contending Versions, Demonstrations and a Gherao

The Quint had earlier reported that broadly two narratives involving the alleged altercations prevail on campus. One is that Najeeb somehow got into an argument with three ABVP members who came to his hostel room. They were campaigning for the upcoming hostel elections. The argument escalated, following which a bunch of ABVP members – in presence of the warden and the private security personnel deployed on campus – beat up Najeeb. The other story, as claimed and propagated by the ABVP, albeit athwart communal lines, involves Najeeb slapping one of the ABVP members because he had issues with the red thread the campaigner was wearing on his wrist.

Also Read: Where is Najeeb Ahmed? Mystery Over JNU Student Gone Missing

Students protesting admin inaction in the Najeeb Ahmed missing case are now divided over calling off the gherao.
Protesting students at the JNU admin block. (Photo: Abhirup Dam/ The Quint)

Najeeb left behind his wallet and phone – the only fact which makes ‘left/disappeared of his own volition’ theory unviable. Students on the campus started staging protests, with the recently elected Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) at the helm. A left coalition between the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) and the All India Students’ Association (AISA) won the elections this year and formed the union panel. On the intervening night of Tuesday and Wednesday, students decided to gherao the Vice Chancellor Jagadesh Kumar, who has reportedly not been very cooperative or sensitive in this matter. The VC, along with other administrators, were interned in the Administrative Building.

Clueless Protestors and a Circumspect Meeting

On Thursday morning, when TV channels with their OB vans were seen reporting from the gherao, we saw a considerable decline in the number of students. It was early morning, understandably a few of them were taking a break. Later, four office bearers of the JNUSU – Mohit Pandey (President), Amal PP (Vice president), Shatarupa Chakravarty (General Secretary) and Tabrez Hasan (Joint Secretary) – went in for a meeting with the VC. The demands included filing of an FIR against the ABVP members who allegedly beat up Najeeb.

As the meeting was in progress, we spoke with Rama Naga, former JNUSU office bearer and an AISA activist. Rama laid down the charter of demands, and also told us how ineffective and biased the administration has been, trying to evade responsibility by unnecessarily looping in bureaucratic procedures.

Soon after the meeting ended, with students rushing to one of the exits in the admin building, the VC was allowed to leave campus. Students took to heavy sloganeering as he left, and the entire exit was staged in a matter of minutes. Students present at the spot weren’t informed that the gherao had been lifted and some consensus reached between the three union office bearers and the VC.

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Differences of Opinion

As soon as the VC left, a stiff argument ensued among the students. A large section of the students, mostly those who do not hold any affiliations to a registered political organisation on campus, were livid with the unilateral decision to call off the gherao. “We have been betrayed by the JNUSU. We won’t stop agitating until Najeeb is found and justice is served,” said an impassioned Dawa Sherpa, a student at the university.

JNUSU President Mohit Pandey left after the arguments flared up. Pandey was accused of acting foolishly when he allegedly signed a joint report prepared by the warden and ABVP members earlier in the Najeeb case.

Students demanded to know why the general body involved in the gherao wasn’t consulted before calling it off. Questions were also raised about the All Organisations meeting (‘All Org’) that happened on the campus, the outcome or proceedings of which no one was privy to. Mohit Pandey left soon after a scuffle unsued, and did not appear to present a report from the meeting, even after being reportedly asked to do so.

Speculation also involved the possible intervention of the Home Ministry, which might have made the union members change their decision. The agitated students proceeded to hold their own meeting at the admin block, after JNUSU and AISA-SFI members left, to decide upon the future course of action.

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A Campus Divided, and a Missing Boy

The meeting, which wasn’t allowed to be filmed or recorded, witnessed several students expressing their loss of faith in the JNUSU. They emphasised that the people who perpetrated violence on Najeeb are still at large and threatening students. It has also been almost a week since Najeeb has gone missing, and the university admin has not put any pressure on the police or judiciary to expedite the search. Students also spoke of further mobilisation, irrespective of whether JNUSU decided to join in, to generate support for the movement. We spoke with one of the agitating students, Shreya, a PhD scholar.

A protest at the Home Ministry is scheduled for 21 October. But Najeeb is still missing. His brother, mother, sister and cousin come to the university everyday, with the hope that something, or someone, will get back their boy. They have sent out appeals, been shoved from pillar to post by the administration, and have been made privy to the excesses of campus politics. We hope Najeeb is found soon.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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