09, Jan 2020 | Teesta Setalvad
Do the young particularly frighten this regime? Yes if we recall the death of Rohith Vemula (Jan 17, 2016) the brute attack on Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid (February-March 2016,again in 2018), the bloody attack and disappearance of young Najeeb (went missing on October 15, 2016) and the countless criminal cases filed against young students from the Ambedkar-Periyar Circle, Chennai IIT, FTII, Pune (Maharashtra) and across several universities in the country! Students and faculty of the Hyderabad Central University were also brutally attacked when they were protesting the return of Appa Rao Podile as Vice Chancellor after the “institutional murder” of Rohith Vemula. Amidst this violent gore, the Delhi police especially , taking orders from the powerful who are their political masters have, over the past six and a half years used brute force against the students of JNU.
Najeeb’s disappearance was, possibly, the most sinister and deadly. In October 2019, three years after the last time her son was seen alive, his mother, Fatima Nafis said: “I am fortunate that all of you, my children, have done your duty to stand with me and say that I am not alone. This is a slap in the face of the Sanghis. The only thing the government is scared of is the youths who will be the leaders of tomorrow. Those who call themselves nationalists are selling airports and the railways and destroying institutions. The only people stopping them are the youth.”
Najeeb had been pursuing a Master’s Degree in Biotechnology from New Delhi’s prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). He was a sharp young man with what his mother hoped was a bright future. But one evening -in October 2016 –after a minor altercation with the aggressive members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the very next day he went missing. Najeeb’s friends have suspected foul play and Fatima started demanding an explanation about what happened to her son. But nobody seemed to have any answers. The police couldn’t explain what happened. It was almost as if he vanished into thin air!
Umar Khalid, a Ph D scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)-once hallowed with its academic reputation but now hollowed out by its saffron vice chancellor–was attacked by a gun wielding assailant inside the premises of the constitution club, situated within a high security zone barely 500 meters away from the parliament house on August 13, 2018 just two days before the Independence Day. After this shameful incident, a troll from the Hindutva camp celebrated the attack, “Really condemn the unsuccessful attempt of shooting!! Try lynching him next time… This kind of anti-national elements must be eliminated as soon as possible…”; Are these not abetments to murder? Umar had also suffered intimidation and threats while in jail in 2016.
Kanhaiya Kumar, today a celebrity youth icon, had been beaten brutally by men in black coats claiming to be lawyers on February 17, 2016 and had detailed his ordeal before the Court Commissioners appointed by the Supreme Court of India. (Senior advocate Mihir Desai had, in an interview to Sabrangindia declared, Lawyers or Goondas? Choose, You cannot be Both: senior counsel Mihir Desai. In this interview, Desai had said, “Several basic principles of ethics of the legal profession have been seriously violated by the lawyers that we saw on television taking law into their own hands and assaulting women and men, including Kanhaiya Kumar on February 15 and 16 at the Patiala House Court, Delhi.”
Kanhaiya had also written a letter from jail to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), My Life is Under Threat: Kanhaiya Kumar to NHRC on February 27, 2016 in this connection. Then, as president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) Kanhaiya had in the four-page letter made serious charges against the police that is required, under law, to follow due process. He has stated that the Delhi Police arrested him on February 12, 2016 from his hostel at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) without any warrant or a notice. In the letter, Kanhaiya also detailed how he had been under extreme mental pressure under detention even though he was not physically manhandled by the police.
The Case of Najeeb’s Disappearance
After young Najeeb went missing on October 15, 2016, there were many cues left to be explored, from the minutest of forensic details (it is claimed Najeeb’s slippers were found on the staircase along with his phone and wallet in the room), to the fact that he was thrashed by students from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in his room the other night, or the perplexing events which took place after his last conversation with his mother, Fatima Nafees, who was on her way to meet him. The case has been handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which, predictably filed a closure report. Fatima Nafis is contesting this closure in court.
On April 23, 2019 a Delhi court ruled that Fatima Nafis is not only entitled to file a protest petition against the closure report in the investigation into her son Najeeb’s disappearance, but also to copies of the report, all related documents as well as statements of witnesses. The court has directed the CBI to submit all this to the complainant. The court has allowed the CBI to provide soft copies of the documents on a pen drive or CD. The case is still pending in court as a mother fights an unyielding system to get justice.
Ammi, a documentary film traces the acute loss, search and longing by Fatima Nafis. “Our words haven’t reached those who should have heard our voices.” The essence of this line echoes throughout the film, prompting the viewer to recognise the gaps overlooked by the JNU administration as well as the law while investigating the disappearance of Najeeb Ahmed.
Before last Sunday’s brute attack (January 5, 2020) in November 2019, thousands of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students, carrying placards and chanting slogans had marched towards Parliament on the first day of the Winter Session on Monday, demanding a total rollback of the hostel fee hike and -while peacefully protesting –suffered brute blows from the lathis of the Delhi police. According to reports, JNU students were lathi charged and several others detained as they started their march towards the Parliament. Several “officers” in plainclothes, according to witnesses, brutally assaulted students and manhandled women during the protest.
“Is lathi charge and breaking heads of JNU Students, and leaving them bloodied the humanity of the Delhi Police? When they were thrashed by lawyers, they remembered the dignity of the uniform? Don’t such incidents stain the uniform?” Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh had then tweeted. Then on December 15, 2019 a similarly brutal and targeted assault was unleashed on Jamia Milia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). Indian students across IITs. IIMS, Central private and public universities demonstrated unitedly in outrage. The protests against the un-Constitutional Citizens Amendment Act (CAA), 2019 and proposed NPR-NRC just got stronger.
Violence is the means and the way of a regime not just inherently anti-democratic but worse; proto-fascist. Those in power signal–through the sinister use of hate and targeted speech– who the victims of the next assault for the khakhi shirts should be. The dog whistle could mark the the “tukde-tukde gang today,” or the “urban Naxals” tomorrow. These khakhi shirts are both the men and women in uniform or those within affiliate outfits, readied 24X7 to take the bait. That is what they have been groomed in the shakha for. It is a time tested ruse of those that use the constructed power of hate and othering to brutally control.
Today, they are both rattled and challenged today by not just the relentless and courageous questioning but the creative take-over of the streets by love and music. It is a threat that is real and immediate because if the protests last, they may well wash away the corrosive stench of hate-lust. For some time to come
—(Courtesy: Sabrang India)