As around 300 students of Jawahar Lal Nehru University staged noisy protests in the national capital, the Delhi Police today detained some of the protestors and their missing colleague's mother.
Policewomen physically lifted a weeping Fatima Nafees, who hails from Badaun in Uttar Pradesh, as male policemen prevented other students from coming to her rescue near the India Gate monument in the city's heart.
She was put into a Delhi Police bus and driven away.
Minutes earlier, as police began breaking up the student protest citing prohibitory orders clamped in the area, Fatima -- who had been camping in the JNU campus for weeks -- turned emotive.
"Mera bachcha kahan hai? Mujhe mera bachcha chaiye," (Where is my child? I want my child) she screamed when journalists approached her amid the gathering mayhem.
Both male and female students turned up for the protest but police blocked all roads leading to the World War I monument. Many students tried to slip through the police cordon about a kilometre away.
As the demonstration got under way, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal -- who on Thursday had urged the JNU students to take their protest to the India Gate area -- urged President Pranab Mukherjee, the JNU Visitor, to urge the central government to speed up efforts to trace Najeeb.
Najeeb went missing after a tiff on the night of October 14 with alleged members of the BJP-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in the campus. The ABVP has denied any involvement in his disappearance.
"I request you to urgently intervene in the turn of events in JNU," the Aam Aadmi Party leader said.
"Further, I also request you to immediately direct the central government to expedite the investigation process to find Najeeb.
"We are at a juncture where every single moment counts," he added.
One of the protesters, Shahid Raza, alleged that police treated Fatima shoddily. All the detainees were taken to the Mandir Marg police station initially, police said.
"The police detained us on way to India Gate. They manhandled Najeeb's mother," Raza told IANS.
Joint Commissioner of Police Dependra Pathak denied the charge. He said no one was "manhandled".
Another student said: "In this country, a mother cannot publicly protest for her missing son."
JNU Students Union General Secretary Satarupa Chakraborty said the students were protesting as no effective action had been taken to find the missing student.
"The students who beat up Najeeb were called for interrogation only on Saturday. This is too little, too late," Chakraborty said.
Later, when it became evident that the detained students and Najeeb's mother had been taken to the Mayapuri police station several kilometres away, Kejriwal reached there.
When he was told that Fatima Nafees had been released, he tweeted he would stay put in the police station till she reached home.
Police said the students had been told not to proceed to India Gate and were stopped at several points.
At the Mayapuri police station, the girls were allowed to leave first. The police told Kejriwal -- who was allowed to meet the students -- that the boys too would be let off.
(With IANS inputs)