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Students punished for Najeeb protest say JNU 'diverting attention'

Priyata Brajabasi | Updated on: 3 June 2017, 23:07 IST
(Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times/Getty Images)

Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union president Mohit Pandey has called the punishment handed out to six students an 'attempt to divert attention' from the disappearance of Najeeb Ahmed in October last year.

The JNU administration fined six students, including four JNUSU office bearers, Rs 20,000 each, and transferred them from their respective hostels with immediate effect.

The punishment has been handed out for a gherao of the vice-chancellor and other officials at the administrative block by the students on 19 and 20 October last year, when they were protesting Najeeb's disappearance. The students were demanding that administration should take institutional responsibility in the enforced disappearance of the biotechnology student.

Pandey, who was among those punished, told Catch that despite the protest being a peaceful one, prominent student leaders had been 'targeted'.

“There were almost a thousand people at the protest. Some students lay down in front of the entrance to the administrative building in protest, but the ones who have been targeted are us. The university is personally targeting student office bearers and prominent student activists. This is an attempt to divert attention from the real issue – that a JNU student went missing from the university eight months ago, and still hasn’t been traced,” Pandey said.

What happened back then

Najeeb has been missing since the night of 15 October 2016, after an alleged altercation with some ABVP students.

The protesters were allegedly demanding that the JNU administration must take 'institutional responsibility' for the 'enforced disappearance' of Najeeb.

“A student disappears and the university doesn't even take responsibility – what sort of process is this?” Mohit added.

During the gherao, JNU vice-chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar had posted a series of tweets, accusing the students of endangering the lives of senior officials who had health problems, and of preventing them from celebrating Karwa Chauth with their wives.

The students punished

The six students who have been punished include four JNUSU office-bearers – president Pandey, vice-president Amal PP, general secretary Satarupa Chakraborty and joint secretary Tabrez Hasan – and student activists Umar Khalid and G Suresh. Khalid was also charged with sedition, in connection with pro-Afzal Guru protests in JNU on 9 February 2016.

About 20 students, including ex-JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar, were sent notices from the administration, but only these six have been punished.

However, the punished students been given the option to appeal to the vice-chancellor.

Khalid's Facebook post

Khalid, in a Facebook post, accused the vice-chancellor of constantly targeting him. “The notice informs me that keeping my career prospects in mind, the VC has taken a 'somewhat lenient' view. So an exorbitant amount of 20,000 rupees (where will I get that money from??), and hostel transfer at a time when I am at a crucial stage of my Phd is a 'lenient punishment'. Dear VC, the irony is too difficult to ignore when you, who facilitated my police witch-hunt last Feb, then rusticated me last year (which was only stayed by the HC and the case is still pending) and have been hell bent on sending me one notice after the other, all of a sudden shows your concern for my 'career prospects'! In fact, leave alone career prospects, your actions and inactions regarding the disappearance of Najeeb shows that you have no concern even for our lives,” he wrote.

No response from administration

Catch reached out to the JNU administration for comment, but did not get a response.

Pandey, in fact, had predicted this silence. “The JNU administration will not speak to the media, because they know that they have been unjust. We were protesting for a student who is now missing for eight months.”

Pandey pointed out that the ABVP students, who were involved in the assault on Najeeb before his disappearance, were just transferred from their hostels. “What is the meaning of fining students Rs 20,000 when PhD students only get a stipend of Rs 8,000?” he asked.

JNUSU general secretary Chakraborty said: “The probe committee formed by the vice-chancellor had ignored the discrepancies the students had highlighted in the campus security's reports.”

The Central Bureau of Investigation has now registered an FIR to probe Najeeb's disappearance.

First published: 3 June 2017, 23:07 IST
Priyata Brajabasi @PriyataB

Priyata thinks in words and delivers in pictures. The marriage of the two, she believes, is of utmost importance. Priyata joined the Catch team after working at Barcroft Media as a picture desk editor. Prior to that she was on the Output Desk of NDTV 24X7. At work Priyata is all about the news. Outside of it, she can't stay far enough. She immerses herself in stories through films, books and television shows. Oh, and she can eat. Like really.