Pushing Out the Rohiths and Najeebs from our universities: What it entails for us?
On the first day of Najeeb’s disappearance when I first met Fatima Nafeez (Najeeb’s mother), one of the first things she told me was that she would take her son back to Badaun the moment she finds him. I did not tell her that day that discontinuing education in JNU is not really the solution to an incident of group violence. We had to stay back and collectively resist these hooligans. But it had just been a day since Najeeb’s disappearance, and in the hope that he will return/be found soon, I had reserved this discussion for a later time.
More than two weeks have passed since then, and there is no trace of Najeeb. Rather than being emphatized with, Najeeb’s family has been humiliated at every juncture. The university administration did not meet her for the first three days, refused to file a complaint with the police. They turned down her pleas to take action against those from ABVP who assaulted Najeeb and in fact went so far as to say that the administration cannot be responsible for everything that happens in JNU. They sidelined the warden’s report of 16th October that detailed the group violence on Najeeb and instead made the ‘missing person’ himself an accused of violence. After all of this when she puts it in a press conference that she has lost all faith in JNU, I don’t have the courage to go ahead and still have that conversation with her.
Amongst other things, the fact that Najeeb was attacked by ABVP goons because he is a Muslim is amply clear. Just like Rohith Vemula was attacked because he was a dalit. Most of the muslim and dalit students accessing higher education in our country are first generation learners in their families. Within their communities, they are a miniscule minority, and they are able to cross the many hurdles to reach here with immense hardships. The progenies of Manu abhor their presence in the universities. The violence against Muslim and dalit students with insitutional impunity is primarily to physically push them out of universities (after more subtler ways of exclusion have failed).
Najeeb’s father, who is a carpenter, had been left immobile because of an accident and a cardiac arrest some years back. It was Fatima Nafeez, who ensured that all her three children receive dignified education. Today, as she wails for her son, one can at times hear her ruing it. “Had I not done it, my son would have been with me today!” Muslims and Dalits have for long been isolated and condemned to live in ghettos. In attacking Rohith and Najeeb, the Manuwadis are sending dalits and muslims a warning to not even think of coming out of their ghettoized existence. If it can happen in a ‘progressive’ JNU, imagine the scene in most of the universities in the North India – BHU, PU, Allahabad University, DU, Meerut, Mewat – where ABVP goons have a free run!
As I said, I don’t have the courage to have this conversation with her. But more than her, it is important that we have this conversation amongst ourselves. In fighting for #JusticeForNajeeb, we are fighting for a vision of a university where the persecuted and oppressed are able to realize their aspirations without any fear and intimidation. And this is important for the democratization of our universities and knowledge production. By keeping Rohiths and Najeebs out of universities, the nature of knowledge we are going to produce is going to be undemocratic and exclusionary to the core. The responsibility of ensuring #JusticeForNajeeb is thus not that on Muslim students alone. It is rather the responsibility of everyone who fighting for the democratization of our universities and our society. It is a fight for the realization of Bhagat Singh’s and Ambedkar’s vision of a truly free, democratic India – a vision that is in direct conflict with that of Manu, Savarkar and Golwalkar.