Jawaharlal Nehru University is doing its best to locate a Muslim student missing for five days, the institution’s vice-chancellor said on Thursday, appealing to students to call off an ongoing protest that has confined officials , allegedly without food or water, on the campus.
Speaking to reporters, V-C M Jagadesh Kumar alleged that many of his colleagues had fallen ill because of a student-enforced blockade of the administrative building that is in its 16th hour. “Students have become relentless and adamant and think that we are not doing our best,” he was quoted as saying by ANI.
The protests were triggered by the disappearance of biotechnology student Najeeb Ahmed on Saturday, allegedly after being thrashed by members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.
Since then, tensions have mounted on campus with the Left-controlled students union saying the university has been lax in trying to find Ahmed and book ABVP members. Others say Ahmed slapped a student.
Sources said the officials will come out of the building at 2.30pm for an academic council meeting and may take a call on calling police inside campus as a “last resort” to lift the blockade.
But students say they haven’t illegally confined anyone and blocked food or water. “You all know the proctor was outside and he freely walked into the building. Electricity and supplies are here. We have also sent food for all people,” Mohit Pandey, president JNUSU, said.
“We want the university to declare those students ‘out of bound’ who indulged in violence on that night. There should be an FIR from JNU’s side,” Pandey added.
JNU is ranked among India’s top educational institutions but has been rocked by protests and an ugly row over nationalism after a controversial event commemorating 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru in February. Classes in the university were suspended for days and students went on strike against the government’s move to arrest and charge top student union leaders with sedition.
The current crisis began on Friday, when violence was reported from the Mahi-Mandvi hostel on campus – where one faction says ABVP beat up Ahmed and another that the Muslim student slapped a hostel resident. At least 12 students have been asked to depose before the proctorial committee in this regard, officials said.
Ahmed’s family lodged a complaint at Vasant Kunj North police station on Tuesday and an FIR has been registered for kidnapping and wrongfully confining a person.
On Tuesday, JNU authorities requested the central agencies, including National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) and CBI for help. “We have asked students and teachers to give any information regarding Najeeb,” registrar Pramod Kumar said.
JNU teachers union and JNUSU have criticised the administration for calling Ahmed an accused in an official press release.
“Rather than criminalising the student, the administration needs to send a signal that there will be an impartial inquiry in the incident,” Ajay Patnaik, president JNUTA, said. JNUSU said it will be meeting the lieutenant-governor and President in connection with the case.