• Justice Delayed: From Gauri Lankesh to Najeeb Ahmed

    The Citizen Editorial

    February 26, 2018

    Fathima Nafees, Najeeb Ahmed's mother in a protest to demanding justice for her son

    "Justice delayed is justice denied", goes the much used proverb but the police apathy in the case of missing Jawaharlal Nehru University student Najeeb Ahmed and journalist Gauri Lankesh this could not have been accurate. The Delhi police and the Karnataka police do not seem to have moved an inch forward in both the cases, similar because of their respective confrontation with right wing elements. Ahmed went missing after an altercation with Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad students in the university; Gauri Lankesh was felled by bullets after death threats and attacks by right wing mafia in Karnataka.

    Students and activists are holding yet another demonstration for Najeeb Ahmed today, demanding action. It is inexplicable how a student could go missing in broad daylight from his hostel in the normally bustling JNU, and not be traced for over a year now. Ahmed, disappeared on 14 October 2016, and not a word has been heard since. The cops, after some pressure, carried out a search in JNU but till date have not been able to provide any insight into this disappearance that has led his distraught mother and family to almost give up hope. Demands that the ABVP youth who hit Ahmed should be interrogated seems to have fallen on deaf ears, with the cops remaining —students insist deliberately so—clueless.

    Gauri Lankesh, a journalist who had touched many hearts, was gunned down outside her home on September 5, 2017 in an act that horrified India. The Karnataka police dragged its feet, with a forensic row breaking out between three laboratories that were unable to agree on the analysis of the cartridges recovered from the crime scene. After considerable pressure the police released some indifferent sketches of alleged assassins in October, claimed that they knew who the men were but were just collecting evidence. And that is the last that has been heard of the case. With no progress here, just as there was no progress in the murders of Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi (2015), rationalist Narendra Dabholkar (2013) and communist leader Govind Pansare (2015).

    Nothing. Except for some vague, and till date officially unconfirmed reports, that the same gun could have killed Kalburgi and Lankesh. And this under a Congress government in Karnataka.The case has not moved since. And as the police does in such instances where it is not keen on solving a crime, it has just been reeling out statistics of how many millions of calls it is trying to trace, and how many thousands of motorcycles it is checking. Interestingly even in October when the State Home Minister declared, “we know who it is”, the Special Investigation Team maintained a grim silence, refusing to accept or deny the claim.

    The disappearance of Najeeb Ahmed without a trace is important as is the murder of Lankesh, as both raise questions about what is referred to as the deep state. When the police falls silent and does not act, citizens cannot be blamed for raising questions, and highlighting ‘conspiracy theories’ that shake faith in the system, and make democracy partisan. For the few and not for all. Perhaps that was and is the intent, to strike fear in sections, to curb dissent, and to take away freedoms. The disappearance of Najeeb Ahmed was intended, it does seem in the fact of police and administrative inaction, to strike fear amongst the students questioning the ruling establishment. And the murder of Gauri Lankesh was intended as a signal to journalists to toe the well laid out line, and not cross the barricades to freedom and dissent.

    It is a sad day for a democracy when the police becomes an instrument and allows its independence and professionalism to be held ransom by the politician in power which has become actually the norm in India. It is a sadder day when the governments pay little more than lip service to the violent travesty of justice, instead of ensuring justice and accountability.


    First published in The Citizen.

    Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the writer's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Indian Writers' Forum.

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