It was an auto driver who last remembers seeing JNU student Najeeb Ahmad, who went missing exactly six months ago. For a month after the case was registered, however, the special investigation team (SIT) of the south district — which was probing the case — could not trace the driver. The case was then transferred to the Crime Branch, which managed to trace him within three days.
According to sources, had the SIT traced the driver — who claimed to have dropped Najeeb at Jamia Millia Islamia — earlier, they would have gained access to CCTV footage and got clues about where he had gone.
By the time the driver was traced in November, the footage was deleted as per regular practice. Even the Forensic Science Laboratory in Rohini could not retrieve the footage.
The special team of the Crime Branch, comprising 70 police personnel — including three inspectors and an ACP-rank officer — are working round-the-clock to trace his whereabouts but have not got any credible leads so far.
A first year MSc Biotechnology student, Najeeb has been missing since October 15, 2016, after an alleged scuffle with two ABVP members.
“Around 9 pm on October 14, Najeeb was sleeping when some people knocked on his door. He opened the door and found some students, who apologised and left. Around 11 pm, some students again knocked on his door. This time, he slapped one of them. They got into a scuffle and senior wardens were informed. They asked all of them to come to their office. Najeeb was again beaten up by some students while they were going down. He admitted his mistake and apologised, following which he was issued a notice,” an officer said.
Police had initially announced a reward of Rs 50,000 in October for anyone with information about Najeeb. It was when the amount was increased to Rs 10 lakh in January, that information started trickling in. However, all 35 callers gave unreliable information — with many making up stories either for money or personal gain.
“Several teams have visited Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Chennai, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, some villages in Maharashtra and Nepal. They visited a number of dargahs and hospitals, and also sought details from the psychiatric department of several hospitals,” the sources said.
“Last month, police received a call from Odisha. The caller claimed that Najeeb is with him. He said he would provide details only after police gave him the money. A team was immediately sent to Odisha, which found that the call was made by a 16-year-old boy who wanted to earn a quick buck,” a source privy to the probe told The Indian Express.
On February 8, a former CBI officer made a PCR call, claiming he had seen Najeeb in Kapashera. A team was dispatched, but on verification, he turned out to be a vagabond. In January, a local criminal from Maharajganj in Uttar Pradesh allegedly made a ransom call to Najeeb’s family and demanded Rs 20 lakh for his release. He was later arrested.
“In December, police received a anonymous letter, which said Najeeb is being confined by a man in Meerut. After investigation, it was found that someone tried to implicate their neighbour and the letter was sent by them. In November, a guard at JNU’s Mahi Mandavi Hostel, where Najeeb was staying, had received a letter which claimed that the missing student was being held captive in Aligarh. However, on investigation, the letter was found to be bogus,” sources said.
“It was his dream to study in JNU and he got disturbed after he received the notice on the scuffle,” the sources added.
Over 400 Delhi Police personnel, along with sniffer dogs, had scanned the sprawling campus for two days, but could not find any clues. They are now scanning all his email ids and social networking profiles.
His mother, Fatima Nafees, who has been leading the campaign to trace Najeeb, said she did not trust the Delhi Police. “I have no trust in police because if they had made any effort whatsoever, my son would have been in front of me by now. This is not just a question of my son, but also the image of our country that a student can go missing from the capital and police have not been able to find a single clue,” she said.
“The news clips about Najeeb being sighted in Darbangha or Aligarh were planted to distract us, and contain our anger,” she added. Nafees said she will demand a judicial probe, since she “only has hope from the court”.