Had the reputation of the Central Bureau of Investigation not consistently sustained such self-inflicted injury when probing politically-tinted matters, it would have been fair to raise three cheers to the Delhi High Court for transferring to it the investigation of the “disappearance” of Najeeb Ahmad, a first-year student of Jawaharlal Nehru University ~ he has been missing since 15 October, a day after an altercation with members of the BJP-affiliated ABVP. Though judicial sobriety restrained the court from delving into politics when divesting the Delhi Police of the probe and entrusting it to the CBI, not many will share the partial satisfaction of Najeeb’s mother that the quality of investigation will improve after the court directed that a senior CBI officer monitor the inquiry. Apart from apprehensions that the CBI will soft-pedal the ABVP angle, the reality remains that so much time has elapsed that it would be difficult to now pick up a credible trail. It is virtually impossible to ignore how subsequent investigations into the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984 have led nowhere simply because the initial probes were indifferent ~ or worse. There is, admittedly, little evidence to confirm the allegations of the student community that foul play was at work in Najeeb’s disappearance, but even their Lordships will be aware that their action has only token significance, and comes a trifle too late. It will require a mini-miracle to establish the truth ~ whatever that may turn out to be. Is the CBI mentally prepared to attempt that kind of challenge?

What remains truly worrisome is that despite several adverse observations on the Delhi Police’s investigations, the home ministry, senior police officials and indeed the court itself have not directed a thorough probe into the manner in which the capital’s constabulary conducted the inquiry. The police have been brazen ~ had the whip been cracked soon after Najeeb went missing there would have been a more balanced approach when the agitation broke out at Ramjas College. The statements from some BJP leaders, and the “certificate” issued to the police by the “more loyal than the king” minister of state for home affairs leaves few neutral observers convinced that there is no tilt towards “saffron”. The several infirmities the High Court has noticed in the Delhi Police’s probe into the Najeeb affair cannot be wished away: the court has itself observed that the next “victim” could be someone with an entirely different political perspective. That is in itself a grave indictment of the manner in which the police conducted itself in this matter, a sad reflection on the personnel involved. A politicised police rings alarm bells for democracy ~ that too in the national Capital.