First, it was the suicide of ex-armyman Ram Kishan Grewal on the One Rank One Pension issue. And now, the Opposition has decided to corner the NDA government at the Centre on the disappearance of Jawaharlal Nehru University student Najeeb Ahmad.
From Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party convenor Arvind Kejriwal to Congress's Shashi Tharoor, JD(U)'s KC Tyagi and CPI(M)'s Prakash Karat, the leaders convened at JNU on Thursday, and questioned the government's failure to find Najeeb, who has been missing since 15 October.
Calling out the BJP on 'hooliganism' and stoking the Hindu-Muslim divide, Kejriwal said: "Yeh party to na Hinduon ki hai, na Musalmanon ki. Yeh to to apne baap ke bhi nahin hai, yeh bas satta aur paise ke lalchi aadmi hai (This is not a party of Hindus, nor Muslims. They won't even do anything for their own fathers, they're just greedy for power and money)! When I went to Gujarat, I met the Patidars, who had been voting for the BJP for 30 years. The BJP goons shot 15 Patidars point blank. They have killed Patidars, they have killed Dalits. Weren't they Hindus? Instead of consoling the family of a former armyman, the police beat up the family members."
Kejriwal went as far as to say that had [Mukesh] Ambani's son been missing, Prime Minister Narendra Modi would have caught the first flight to help him.
A mother's cry for help
With all the political heavyweights gathered in JNU on Thursday, and while Tharoor was addressing the crowd, suddenly a wail went up. Unable to control herself any longer, Najeeb's mother broke into tears. "Arre, koi to mere bete ko wapas le aao. Kahan hai mera Najeeb (Someone bring back my son. Where is my Najeeb)?" she wailed uncontrollably.
Tharoor was forced into silence, as was the entire audience. Many students and teachers sitting there also broke into tears, moved by the mother's broken-hearted wails. JNU Students' Union leaders and activist Kavita Krishnan tried to console her, but to no avail.
Her tears were a sharp reminder that this wasn't just a political show of solidarity against the BJP. It was a reminder that Najeeb was still missing, a call to find him, to get the police to swing into action, to question those who could be involved in the crime.
But most of all, it was a chilling reminder that there was a mother waiting for her son to come back.
Police still struggling
It's been more than 20 days since Najeeb went missing. Since then, more than a dozen protests have been organised by student activist groups in the national capital. But the police is still struggling to find any trace of his whereabouts.
Delhi Police officials say they have questioned more than 150 people in the investigation process, including JNU officials, students and staff.
They also assert they have questioned those who allegedly assaulted Najeeb as well. However, they say that with the information and insight they have, they can't possibly charge the alleged assaulters, nor detain them by law.
"We have been hunting the entire campus and nearby areas, but there has been no substantive evidence yet. We are presently focussing on finding him rather than figuring out who assaulted whom," said RP Upadhyay, Joint Commissioner of Police (South-Eastern range), who is part of a special investigation team formed to trace Najeeb. The SIT is headed by Additional DCP Manishi Chandra.
The police has also formed a team to search Badaun, Uttar Pradesh, where Najeeb's family resides. Officials claim to have informed Najeeb's mother that they are doing everything they possibly can to find him.
Kejriwal's full-frontal attack
- Kejriwal, who has had numerous run-ins with the Centre-controlled Delhi Police in the past, said: "What has the police done so far? Where is the investigation? The message is clear. Any one who raises their voice against the BJP will be targeted. This country has been subjected to hooliganism by the BJP, the RSS and the ABVP. But most importantly, if the ABVP is involved, the Delhi Police cannot have an impartial investigation."
- "The way the country has progressed in the last two years is of grave concern. Today, Najeeb is missing. Tomorrow, my son can go missing. I am here not just for Najeeb, but the safety of my own children, because even they are in danger if BJP is in power."
- Kejriwal also brought up his detention by the police on Wednesday, when he had been trying to meet Grewal's family. "If I, the chief minister, can be detained for visiting the OROP suicide victim's family, imagine Najeeb's plight. He was just a student," he said. "The OROP's victim's older son, who's a part of the Haryana Police, told me that the Delhi Police beat them up mercilessly yesterday."
- "Najeeb will be back by only one thing - people power. Let's all get together and take this movement out of the JNU campus. Let us all get together at India Gate. There should be at least one representative from every university of this country."
Tharoor questions JNU administration
- Tharoor, the senior Congress leader and former Union minister, said: "Your anger is our anger. Your issue is our issue too. This meet is to get justice for Najeeb Ahmad."
- "Something happened on that night. A serious investigation needs to be conducted. It needs to go beyond what this university's administration is entrusted with. There must be an independent investigation. The police have some questions to answer. We've heard enough about the alleged events, which took place in the front of the warden. Both the police and the vice-chancellor have to explain why the campus was not searched immediately after the reports of the student's disappearance. And why have there been no searches for such a long time after the incident."
- "When a human being goes missing, all other concerns are secondary. But for those in authority, in position to do something, other concerns have come before the well-being of the missing human being. No one vanishes for 20 days without a reason and that reason has to be explained. We're all here because something wrong has happened. And not enough has been done to right the wrong."
- "What is happening to our universities in the last few years? We've seen what is happening in Chennai to the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle, in Hyderabad to Rohith Vemula, and in JNU, the arrest of your friend and colleague."
Karat calls it undeclared Emergency
- CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat called the situation currently prevailing in the country an 'undeclared emergency'. He said: "PM Narendra Modi, addressing a media function, declared that people should be vigilant, and that no political party can think about imposing Emergency in our country again! One can only marvel at this statement, because while he was making that statement, the elected CM of Delhi was arrested (detained) for trying to meet the family of a retired soldier who committed suicide. There is an undeclared Emergency in the country."
- "This university didn't surrender during the Emergency. Police had raided the campus and arrested students. But now, something worse than that Emergency is taking place. There is an attempt to destroy the very ethos of this university. What happened to Najeeb is most disturbing. The word Najeeb itself has invited a type of official reaction. We have to fight this onslaught."
- "The Delhi Police, under the control of the Central government, now works at the behest of the RSS and its cohorts."
- "In JNU, a surgical strike happened much earlier - in February (when JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar and other students were arrested for sedition. Another surgical strike happened two days ago when eight people were eliminated from a jail in Bhopal."
Other leaders' ire
- JD(U) leader KC Tyagi said: "Everyone's eyes should be red with anger, and fists closed. I've spent 19 months in jail, but the Prime Minister of the country has not spent even 24 hours in jail for people's freedom. During the Emergency, there was no non-Congress member who did not go to jail, except Narendra Modi."
- "During the Emergency, the V-C would protect students, and ask the Delhi Police not to touch JNU students. But now, the V-C goes to the police to give reports on students! Now, students are being targeted on basis of religion."
- Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar said: "If ABVP students did not have external support, then why haven't they been investigated? It's been over 21 days, and the V-C did not even ask students about the incident. He's waiting for permission from Raisina Road or Race Course Road to question his own varsity students."
- CPI leader Annie Raja said: "Ever since (BJP MP) Subramaniam Swamy cast an evil eye on JNU, students are going to jail, being labelled anti-nationals and terrorists. Christians and Muslims are being targeted by current government."
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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