Published: 17th October 2017
EXCLUSIVE: One year on, it doesn't seem like the CBI wants to find Najeeb. They think the issue will die down, but we will not forget: JNU's Umar Khalid
Umar Khalid has been closely associated with the movement to find Najeeb. A year and almost no hope later he talks about Najeeb's family, the CBI and hopes for the future
On October 15, 2016, a 27-year old student pursuing his Masters in Biotechnology at JNU went missing. Exactly a year later, his mother who sat in protest crying for the police to find her son got dragged by her hair and shoved into a police vehicle.The very same day, the Delhi High Court observed that the CBI had 'a complete lack of interest' in the case. So the question is, does the police even want to find Najeeb?
When Umar Khalid went into hiding after the police started to hound him for being falsely accused of raising the then newly coined 'anti-national' slogans, he immediately got linked to terrorist groups. In an interview, Umar Khalid's father said, "The country's media is slowly turning on him because he is a perfect fit: A Muslim face with views that don't gel with the State's opinion on things." The same thing happened to Najeeb. Umar Khalid talks to Edex about Najeeb's family, how JNU administration and the police couldn't care less about the disappearance and how he has little hope for the future.
No support: Umar Khalid talks to Edex about Najeeb's family, how the JNU administration and the police couldn't care less about the disappearance
Everyone has heard of Najeeb since the disappearance, do we know anything about his life prior to that?
Najeeb was a new student, so I did not know him personally. He had joined the University towards the end of July and disappeared in October. He was only allotted the hostel 15 days before his disappearance, so it was too short a time to get to know him. But we do know that he was attacked just a day before his disappearance by a bunch of ABVP students and there were 22 people who came forward as witnesses to this incident. There was evidence that the ABVP had given Najeeb death threats and beaten him up so bad that he needed to be rushed to the hospital.
Have you had the chance to interact with his family and could you tell us about how they've handled the last one year?
Yes, I've spoken to Najeeb's mother several times and I even visited their house last February. They live in a place called Badaun in UP. His father used to work as a carpenter but fell off a construction building years ago which caused him to be paralysed and mostly bedridden. So his mother has pretty much been the one to take care of all her three children, ensuring that they get their education but now she regrets providing them with education.
For how long: It has been a year that Najeeb's mother has been pleading the authorities to fetch deatils on his whereabouts
What do you mean when you say she regrets giving him an education?
Najeeb cracked the JNU and the Jamia Malia entrance, his mother wanted him to go to Jamia but he told his mother that JNU was India's Oxford and insisted on joining here. His mother regrets agreeing to that demand. She says she wished she had never gotten her children educated. She believes if she had just asked Najeeb to work and not encouraged him to pursue higher education, he might have been with her today. It is the same with Rohit Vemula, his mother put in her whole life into educating him and then he pursuing that very education killed him. They both represent marginalized communities. Most Muslim or Dalit students who come to study at JNU or HCU are first-time learners and for their families to see their children disappear while in pursuit of an education is unbelievable. There is a brazen Islamaphobia and these students from minority communities are being terrorised by groups like the Sangh Parivar. Najeeb's mother's health has really fallen this last year and they have financially collapsed as well. Najeeb's brother was to start a job just before his disappearance but his involvement in the protests delayed his joining date and he lost the job. His sister couldn't attend her board exams for the same reason. They've been destroyed mentally, emotionally and financially.
Who to blame: Umar Khail said that the Najeeb's mother regrets sending him to JNU
What was the immediate reaction of the University when news got out that he had disappeared?
The University openly said that they cannot be held be responsible for Najeeb's disappearance, they didn't have the slightest hint of shame when they said so. The narrative that JNU, the Delhi police, SIT and the CBI want to push is that Najeeb disappeared on his own. In fact, the University has threatened Najeeb's family of dire consequences if they take the case to court. The only thing that the university did was to transfer the ABVP students to another hostel as if that is a punishment, they enjoy the impunity. The police put up notices stating that they would award 10 lakh rupees to people who knew of Najeeb's whereabouts but have done absolutely nothing concrete. Not even something as basic as interrogating the people who beat him up just the previous day, didn't access their call records or messages, they didn't conduct any search operations. They brought sniffer dogs to the campus three months after he disappeared. Even the court said that it seems like the most premier investigating agency in the country is making fun of justice.
Where is he: 27-year-old Najeeb pursuing his Masters in Biotechnology at JNU went missing on October 15, 2016
Do you think the fact that the court has pulled up the CBI, they might pull up their socks?
Till now, the CBI has nothing to tell Najeeb's mother. They don't call her and neither do they pick up her calls. Even in court, they have nothing to say. During a hearing, where the CBI was supposed to submit the status report they brought a month old report and didn't even care to change the date. Instead of interrogating the ABVP members, the police are interrogating Najeeb's family and friends. This feels like a complete cover-up. Had it been someone else would they have been so uninterested in the investigation. It can only be because both the CBI and the Delhi police come under the ruling party and the Centre wants to protect the ABVP students.There is a definite conflict of interest. This becomes even more evident when you notice that top lawyers who've represented top BJP leaders are also representing the ABVP students. For the last two days, protests were held in front of the CBI office and for 48 hours they had nothing to show. I think what the police is hoping that matter will just die a natural death. They are just waiting it out, waiting for it to be forgotten. But we won't forget.
Do you think JNU has become Islamaphobic recently or is this just a side of JNU that we haven't seen all these years?
There have always been communal and casteist issues in JNU but the fact is that it now has institutional impunity under today's government. When Najeeb disappeared a top media house claimed that he had links with terrorist groups even though they didn't even have the smallest bit of evidence. Despite being in the wrong, they have not apologised to Najeeb's family. It is enough if you have a Muslim name. There has been no case filed against the journalists who produced this news. Everyone enjoys a certain amount of impunity these days.
They want to know: There have been many protests to urge police to get more details in the case
What do you think the future holds for this case?
See, when the February 9 protests happened and us students were accused of raising anti-national slogans, the arrests were instant. Without evidence, the police issued arrest warrants to us for allegedly raising slogans. Even 19 months after the police hasn't even been able to file a chargesheet to substantiate those allegations in court of law. Today, a student has been missing for a year and no one is bothered. The University and the police are not even pretending to care, they are so brazen about it. I can only hope that things change, now that the court has also called them out. But looking at their track record, I can't hope for too much. The TV channels are discussing whether Babar was a traitor or they are talking about Taj Mahal's validity in our history. The Prime Minister has not said a word about this issue. It only seems like cases involving Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis and women are not issues that deserve the country's attention.