The front page news report in a national daily about missing Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Najeeb Ahmed being an Islamic State sympathiser has been called as FAKE. Delhi Police rejected the controversial TOI report published on Monday, saying on Tuesday that the cops hadn’t established any connection between the terrorist group and Ahmed, who went missing from his campus on Oct 15 last year.
“We saw a report in the media claiming that Google and YouTube had indicated that Najeeb was listening to a speech by an IS member a day before he went missing and he may be associated with the organisation. The police has not received any such report. Any association with the ISIS has not come up in Delhi Police’s investigation so far,” Deependra Pathak, a spokesperson at Delhi Police, was quoted as reacting to the Times of India article.
A Times of India report had cited highly-placed sources in Delhi Police as revealing that Ahmed had been seeking information about ISIS before he went missing. It was also reported that the police was “exploring” whether Ahmed could have travelled to Nepal after being “radicalised.” The report insinuated that Ahmed was looking for ways to join IS, citing his Youtube and Google search history records obtained from Delhi Police sources.
“Our investigations have not yielded any such information,” Delhi Police’s Pathak, however, reportedly clarified.
The TOI article was played up in several TV news channels and websites, and evoked strong reactions from social media users. After Delhi Police rubbished the report, senior news personalities scrambled to social media to express regret over their organisations picking up the dubious news article in the first place.
We should have been more careful as should those who ‘leak’ motivated stories to fit a narrative.. https://t.co/OZTybny6XP
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) March 22, 2017
(Rajdeep Sardesai, Twitter)
The Times of India is now finding itself in the firing line for carrying the report. Ahmed’s fellow student at the JNU and former vice-president of JNU Student’s Union Shehla Rashid, has started an online petition on Change.Org urging the English daily to issue a front page apology, among a four-point demand. Rashid’s petition seeks that
1) Times of India must carry a generously worded, front page apology and clarification of the entire matter as soon as possible.
2) Times of India must sack Raj Shekhar Jha, and any other people involved, for using the names of Delhi Police and Times of India for false propaganda.
3) All the media outlets which have reported the matter based on TOI’s report must immediately clarify the matter, without ambiguity and sensationalism, and give prominent space to the Delhi Police’s clarification in the matter.
4) Times of India must adequately compensate the family of Najeeb Ahmed for the mental trauma, stigma and loss of reputation that they have suffered in the process.
Ahmed’s disappearance has been the focal point of protests on the JNU campus by his backers and friends, who say that the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated student body Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) was possibly behind him going missing. It has been reported in various media outlets that Ahmed had been involved in an argument with several ABVP members before going untraceable.