About 200 Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students and their missing colleague Najeeb Ahmed’s mother were detained on Sunday, as they prepared to stage a protest near India Gate against alleged police inaction in the case.
Policewomen physically lifted a weeping Fatima Nafees, who hails from Badaun in Uttar Pradesh, as male policemen prevented other students from coming to her rescue. She was put into a Delhi Police bus and driven away.
Minutes earlier, as police began breaking up the student protest citing prohibitory orders clamped in the area, Fatima -- who had been camping in the JNU campus for weeks -- turned emotive.
“Mera bachcha kahan hai? Mujhe mera bachcha chaiye (Where is my child? I want my child),” she screamed when journalists approached her.
Her son Ahmed, a 27-year-old first-year MSc student, went missing from campus on October 15 after getting into an altercation with members of the RSS-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. There has been no information about Ahmed’s whereabouts so far.
Shahid Raza, a protester, said: “The police detained us on way to India Gate. They manhandled Najeeb’s mother... in fact, two young women riding an auto-rickshaw were detained by male police officials who were not accompanied by any woman police official.”
However, joint commissioner of police Dependra Pathak said no one was “manhandled”.
A police official said the protesters were detained since restrictions under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, banning assembly of four or more people at one place, are in force around the India Gate.
After the police stopped the JNU students from staging a protest, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal alleged that the Centre was adopting a ‘dictatorship’ policy.
He rushed to Mayapuri police station, where Fatima was taken, and camped there till she reached the university after release.
Kejriwal, who had earlier urged JNU students to hit the streets outside the campus, said: “Why is the Prime Minister afraid of protests? If one student is missing since the last 22 days then other students have the right to protest. This is their constitutional right and the government is trying to snatch their rights from them.
He earlier met President Pranab Mukherjee to seek his intervention. After the meeting, Kejriwal said the President had promised to seek a report from the home ministry and the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
The chief minister said if even half of the policemen deployed on Sunday were used to trace Najeeb, he would have been found by now.
“If you stop the youths, they will get more agitated. I have told you many times, Modi-ji, don’t mess with students,” he later said in a tweet.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, meanwhile, accused the Aam Aadmi Party, Congress and the Left of “orchestrating” the protest by JNU students, saying they cannot digest the “good work” done by the Narendra Modi government.
JNU Students Union general secretary Satarupa Chakraborty, for his part, said they were protesting as no effective action had been taken to find Ahmed.
“The students who beat up Najeeb were called for interrogation only on Saturday. This is too little, too late,” Chakraborty said.
The Sunday protest and the subsequent police action resulted in heavy traffic jams in central Delhi, with the streets around the India Gate being cordoned off.