Son missing, a mom’s piercing wail in Delhi

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The mother of JNU student Najeeb Ahmed, missing since October 15 after a clash with ABVP members, broke down at a news conference here today and begged for her son to be “set free”.
“What have the police done; what has the university done to the boys who beat up my son? He is with them, please act against them,” Fatima Nafees said between sobs. “Every day, when I wake up, I wonder if I would see him today. Those holding him captive, please set him free.”
There is no proof yet that Najeeb has been kidnapped. Police sources said in private that they were probing all possibilities, including whether someone with vested interests had deliberately kept him captive to foment mischief. Even the relatives of the students are being kept under surveillance, the sources said. Till now, all these approaches have led the police to dead ends.
But the police so far have not done something that would have been taken as elementary in a case of this nature: they have not questioned anyone allegedly involved in the brawl the night before Najeeb disappeared.
Thirteen days into the mystery, this act of omission by the police has emerged as a sore point around which countless – and yet-to-be- substantiated – theories are swirling.
Najeeb, 27, a first-year MSc biotechnology student, had called his mother in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh, at 2am on October 15 to say “something bad” had happened to him, prompting her to catch a 4am bus to Delhi.
She last heard from him at 11am when she called him from a bus stand and was told to come to the university. The same day, Fatima lodged a missing person complaint that has been turned into a kidnapping FIR.
Vikrant Kumar, a student of Russian whom the students’ union has accused of leading the ABVP attack on Najeeb on October 14 night, too has lodged a police complaint accusing Najeeb of slapping him.
In the modern age and in a modern capital city, it is next to impossible to stay under the radar for so long. The police say it’s proving difficult to trace Najeeb because he is without his mobile phone, which was found in his room with his wallet.
“What sort of police is this that can’t find any lead on my son for 13 days?” asked Fatima, who addressed the media along with family members and JNU student leaders. “I shudder to think how he was beaten up. He never left his phone behind even when he went to the hospital (after the beating) that night.”
The family and the students’ union posed several questions to vice-chancellor M. Jagadesh Kumar and the police, such as:
Why had the police not searched the university’s forest area?Why had the police not questioned ABVP members?Why had the JNU administration not acted against the ABVP students and at least two outsiders involved in the clash?
Kumar is yet to respond to queries The Telegraph had emailed to him yesterday and this evening.
An IPS officer confirmed that no ABVP member had been interrogated – the officers handling the case could not explain why.
The police and the university administration, however, insisted that the woods at JNU had been thoroughly and repeatedly searched. Additional deputy commissioner Nupur Prasad said: “The university’s forest area is constantly being searched by police with the help of JNU’s security personnel. Dogs have also been used in the search.”
Students’ union president Mohit Pandey said that three ABVP students – Vikrant, Ankit Kumar and Sunil Pratap – had come to Najeeb’s room, No. 106, on the first floor of Mahi Hostel at 11.30pm on October 14 to campaign for the hostel elections.
When the noise of a scuffle drew other hostel inmates to the room, they allegedly saw three students assaulting Najeeb and separated them. But then they saw some 10-12 others – ABVP members and alleged outsiders – coming up the stairs towards them and locked Najeeb in his room for his own safety, Pandey said.
The room was unlocked when a G4S security guard arrived from the hostel gate. The inmates, the guard and Najeeb, bleeding from the nose and mouth, set off towards the wardens’ ground-floor office but the attackers assaulted Najeeb again, hostel resident Shahid Raza said. Somehow, the inmates locked Najeeb again in a washroom and blocked the entrance, waiting for senior warden Sushil Kumar to arrive at the hostel.
When he did, the students walked to his office with Najeeb amid constant abuse and threats from the attackers, Pandey said. He added that the attackers also roughed up some other hostel inmates and Pandey himself, who had come to stop the violence.
Alok Singh, president of the ABVP unit at JNU, alleged that Najeeb had attacked and abused Vikrant and his two friends in a “hate crime” because Vikrant was wearing a sacred thread on his wrist.
He said the hostel’s three wardens had, after a meeting with student leaders including Pandey that night, initially decided to expel Najeeb as he had admitted to slapping Vikrant.
“We did not agree to his expulsion. The senior warden asked Najeeb to write down what had happened but he said he couldn’t remember,” Pandey said. “We requested the warden to defer the punishment until Najeeb was in a position to make a statement. He agreed.”
The mother said that when her son had called at 2am, he mentioned that he had been to Safdarjung hospital, 6km from JNU. A friend of Najeeb later said he had been told by Pandey that when the hospital authorities suggested that he should register a police complaint, Najeeb said he was all right and he left.
Najeeb had reached JNU from Badaun 10 days earlier. He had done his graduation from Bareilly.
A question that is troubling some of his friends is how a young man, new to the capital, might have reacted once he was confronted with the possibilities of expulsion from the hostel and police proceedings.

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