With JNU student Najeeb Ahmed missing for over 200 days now, the Delhi Police has approached mosques in the national capital and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh to make regular announcements on him in the hope of making some headway in the case.
Najeeb went missing after a scuffle at his hostel allegedly with ABVP members on the night of October 14. A reward of Rs 10 lakh was announced by police for any information about him.
The probe into his disapperanece has turned up no clue so far with police continuing to grope in the dark.
A senior police officer summed it up succintly: "Despite so many teams working on the case, we have failed to make any headway."
Now, they they have turned to mosques for help. The investigating officers met the imam of Fatehpuri Masjid in Chandni Chowk and requested him to make announcements about Najeeb during prayers.
"We asked them to request people to share any clues or information about Najeeb. We have even requested imams of other mosques in Delhi, neighbouring areas and some cities in Uttar Pradesh like Badaun, Bareilly where Najeeb has stayed to make regular announcements," said a senior police officer.
Police have also requested them to share information about the disappearance with "jamaats" who travel between mosques.
Meanwhile, Najeeb's family members say they have lost faith in police.
"We are as clueless about Najeeb now, as we were on the first day," said Najeeb's brother Mujeeb.
He said the police has done "little" in tracing his brother and has only "harassed" them.
"It is very mysterious that every time the case is coming up for a hearing in the High Court, we get a fake call sharing information about him. The police, very conveniently, says in the court that they are working on the leads gained through the phone call," he added.
The Delhi High Court, while recently hearing a plea by Najeeb's mother Fatima Nafees seeking whereabouts of her son, had rapped the Delhi Police over the manner of its probe.
The court said that the agency appeared to be looking for an "escape route" and was "beating around the bush".
Amid all the gloom, the family is still hopeful of his return. Whenever his family members receive a call from an anonymous number, they always hope that it might be Najeeb.
"We always try and pick calls and in case we miss any call, we call back on the numbers in the hope that someone might be calling to tell us about my brother," said Mujeeb.
Recently, the family received a call from a woman in Muzaffarnagar inquiring about their son but it later turned out that she had dialed their number by mistake since it was similar to her boyfriend's number, police said.
Najeeb's mother, meanhwile, is trying to stay strong. However, there are times when she breaks down.
Friday was one such instance. She broke down in front of DCP (Crime) G Ramgopal Naik, who is investigating the case, after the court hearing, pleading with him to find her son and bring him back.
"I don't cry in front of my children since they are also going through a difficult phase. But I cry whenever I am praying to God. I miss Najeeb a lot whenever his favourite dishes are prepared or some other anecdotes are discussed," Fatima said.
She said that she prays everyday to seek the almighty's help in finding her son.
"Police has projected a negative image of my son. He is very good-natured and unlike what he has been made out to be. I have full faith that he will come back."