Shadab Farooq, the Jamia Millia Islamia student who found himself facing a gun on January 30 only to walk up to the man wielding it in an effort to calm him down, has been commended for his bravery by many even as others have tried to vilify him with claims of the whole thing being a set up.
The 22-year-old Kashmiri, a student of M.A. Mass Communication in Jamia Millia Islamia’s AJK-MCRC department, is rather beloved by the student community. Shadab has been at the university since 2016 when he joined to get a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature.
As a student in the English department, Shadab was a member of the department’s dramatics society ‘Expressions’ as well as a member of the university’s drama club ‘Josh’.
Abhay Yadav, a final year student of the English department, said Shadab had a big impact on him when he first joined Jamia:
“When I started my journey with the English department and Expressions in 2017, there were not many seniors with whom I had a personal relationship with. Sure, a lot of them would talk to us but there were only a few who really stuck around to help and to listen to ideas. Shadab was amongst the few people who really empathised with me and made feel like I wasn’t alone in a new place. It is mostly the reason why I have always looked up to him.
“Everyone knows that he is a brilliant actor and an enthusiastic artist. Even though Shadab bhai is an introvert, he is always there to encourage you. For my first directorial venture Macbeth, the first script-reading was conducted in the presence of Shadab bhai since I trusted his opinion the most. He had a penchant for swooping in at the last moment and fixing things. We were participating in a street play where the student who was orchestrating the performance fell ill. Shadab bhai immediately came into the picture and with only the basic outline of the play and he crushed the performance with the immense confidence he has in his craft.
“It was encouraging to look at the amount of confidence and belief he has in himself and it was evident in last week’s incident too when not even the police had the conviction to approach the armed attacker. But Shadab bhai was there again to confront the man and to talk him out of firing the pistol. He just wanted to help the man – he is someone who has always encouraged open conversations even with people he disagrees with.
“I write Hindi poetry and even though Shadab bhai doesn’t understand the sort of hefty Hindi I was used to writing, he is always interested in learning something new each day. The curiosity of that man inspires me. Right now, all I wish for is his speedy recovery. He is a very strong man and no matter what the media outlets run, everyone that knows him what an exceptional man Shadab bhai is.”
Along with Expressions, till last year, Shadab was also a part of the university’s drama club Josh. His flatmate and friend Ameya Chilwal, also a student at Jamia, looks back on his first experiences with Shadab:
“Shadab bhai was the one who actually took me with him to join Josh in 2017 when I came to Delhi for the first time. Every newcomer in the city wants a support system, for me it was Shadab bhai. He has been by my side for over three years now and even to this day all of us that need help or advice go to him because we know that he will listen. His tone is so genteel and respectful that you never felt that you are being vulnerable in front of the wrong person.
“During yesterday’s incident as well, all Shadab bhai was doing was trying to make the armed attacker understand how nothing would come of his actions. That is his general attitude towards everything – wherever he could convince someone to do the right thing, he would intervene and do so.”
Syed Ali Haider, a close friend of Shadab (also known as Ashu to his close friends) discussed the aftermath of the incident:
“The major reason for calmness after the incident was due to Ashu’s behaviour. All our anxiety and the feeling of being distraught after hearing what had happened turned into relief once we saw him smile and raise his injured arm to bid us salaam when he saw us. He was constantly smiling and giving a thumbs up to everyone who asked him about how he was.
“His attitude was that of a survivor and not a victim.
“I’ve been friends with him for more than three years now and it’s in his nature to stop any injustice happening in front of his eyes. Be it a fight between two people in Nizamuddin basti, be it a petty thief stealing something in front of him. I remember an incident that took place at Kathputli Colony in Delhi where photography was banned due to the alleged mafia activity that takes place there. Ashu entered the colony with his camera to document the slums in the area and he was stopped by armed guards who threatened him with guns. He tried talking to them to explain why he was doing this but they didn’t want to listen and threatened him further.
“I don’t know if it’s the Kashmiri grit in him that is the reason behind his fearlessness or something else, but Ashu is definitely a unique man.”
In the aftermath of the shooting incident, Shadab was moved from Holy Family hospital to the AIIMS trauma centre in the evening where he received treatment for the gunshot wound to his left arm. The bullet was successfully dislodged and he was discharged Friday morning.
Shadab Farooq was amongst the hundreds of anti-Citizenship Amendment protestors that were a part of the peaceful march from Jamia Millia Islamia to Rajghat on Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary when he was shot and injured by the gunman with links to the Sangh parivar.
The Jamia Coordination Committee, which had called the protest march, condemned the incident and raised questions regarding Delhi Police’s conduct during the incident and their lack of proactivity. The police has taken the shooter into protective custody.
Shireen Khan is a student of M. A. Mass communication at Jamia Millia Islamia.
Featured image credit: Mohammad Meherban