On October 14, 2016, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student-activist Najeeb Ahmad reportedly got into an altercation with students from a rival student organization over political expression, after which he went missing.
Mr. Ahmad is a first-year master’s student in biotechnology at JNU and a member of the All India Students’ Association. Sources indicate that, on the night of October 14, he got into a physical altercation with three to four members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a student organization affiliated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, who were campaigning door-to-door for residence hall elections. It is unclear what provoked the altercation; however, some reports allege that Mr. Ahmad slapped one of the ABVP members after asking why he was wearing an akalava, a red thread worn around the wrist by Hindus.
Shortly after the altercation began, a group of students, including some of Mr. Ahmad’s friends, arrived on the scene. While some reportedly joined the ABVP students in beating on Mr. Ahmad, others attempted to shield him and escort him to the residence hall warden. The warden and security officers eventually intervened to prevent students from continuing to attack Mr. Ahmad.
At the warden’s office, Mr. Ahmad reportedly signed a statement claiming responsibility for the altercation, and indicating thatthe warden had decided to expel him from the hostel with immediate effect. Mr. Ahmad was transported to a university health center for medical attention in the early morning hours, and reportedly returned to the residence hall later that morning. Later that day, Mr. Ahmad’s mother traveled to campus to visit him, and found that he had gone missing. As of this report, a police investigation and search for Mr. Ahmad are ongoing.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about campus violence connected to student expression. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such acts contribute to a climate of fear in higher education communities. Students have the right to free expression; however, that right does not extend to violence. State authorities and higher education officials have a responsibility to ensure the security of higher education communities, to prevent future acts of violence and disappearances, and to investigate and hold perpetrators of such acts accountable.