KARACHI: Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan set up a three-member committee composed of senior educationists on Tuesday to investigate a student’s ‘suicide’, which the family termed a murder.

“Even if you cut my body into pieces, I will not believe that my son has killed himself. He was an educated, cool-headed boy and could never take such an extreme step. It was a deliberate murder,” said Shahid Jamal Siddiqui, the grieving father of 28-year-old Basit who allegedly took his life on Monday afternoon after a university teacher refused to let him take his examination when he arrived late at the centre.

Basit was a final-year student of bachelor of dental surgery at the Hamdard College of Medicine and Dentistry of Hamdard University.

His sudden death has left the family and relatives in shock and disbelief. Neighbours, who have known him since his childhood, were also dumbfounded as the family prepared for the funeral at their PECHS home.

According to the family, Basit, the youngest of the six siblings, who did his O level from St Paul’s school, woke up a bit late on Monday and rushed to the centre as he didn’t want to miss his exam.

He left home on a motorbike but later borrowed a car from a friend for the onward journey to Madinatul Hikmat, the main Hamdard University campus located some 28 kilometres from the main commercial centre of the city. Unfortunately, the car broke down on Manghopir Road.

“As he got someone to get the car repaired, he phoned his class-fellows and informed them that he was going to be late. The one-hour examination was already over when he reached there. He pleaded with the teacher to let him take the exam.

“But the teacher turned down his request and asked him to go to his college in North Nazimabad and talk to the administration there,” said his mother, Fatima.

Heavens wouldn’t have fallen if Basit had been allowed to take his final year paper and if the university administration was following a ‘policy’ why it asked him to go to the North Nazimabad college, she argued.

“I asked my dying son why he brought that tragedy upon himself and he told me that he was burned by someone else. How could someone tell a lie on the deathbed?” she said, choking with emotion.

The family alleged that someone threw petrol on Basit and ignited it while he was on the campus. The fact that the bottle used in sprinkling petrol over him was later found in his car, nobody came to rescue him and take him to hospital on time suggested “the college administration was involved in the incident”, the family said.

The family deplored that not a single university official came to their home to condole their son’s death.

Allegations of malpractices

The family demanded “honest investigations not only into Basit’s case but into all criminal activities” going on, on the college and university campuses. They alleged that a group of teachers deliberately failed students who argued with them or against whom they developed some grudges for one reason or another. They had demanded Rs500,000 from Basit for the examination he missed.

“They were against my son from day one. Once we had to pay Rs300,000 to get my son cleared in one paper,” said the mother, adding that people who received money hid their identity and called students at different places.

In a recent case, they claimed, a female student, who failed an exam, had been contacted and asked to pay Rs500,000 to get passed. Early this month, the family said, a student committed suicide by jumping off the university building after he failed in a paper. The matter was resolved after the administration paid some amount to the victim’s family.

In reply to a question about Basit’s performance, the family said he was a good student and his record could be checked to verify their claim.

The family plan to lodge an FIR against four college staff members, including the man who had refused to allow Basit to take his exam. Basit’s college friends said they were being threatened not to speak on the issue and this fear explained why so few of them came to their friend’s funeral.

“I have lost my young son at a time when he was ready to start his professional life. But I want no other mother to experience the same. I appeal to the governor to have the case investigated as it is his duty to see what’s happening in educational institutions of higher learning,” the mother said.

Hamdard university officials were not available later in the day to respond to the allegations made by the family.

The university registrar had a brief reply when contacted in the morning: “A preliminary report would be submitted to Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad today. A statement to the press will be released once the fact-finding committee set up by the university completes its findings in a day or two.”

Answering a question, he said the student had shown no reaction when his request was for sitting the examination was rejected.

Probe bodies

The Sindh governor on Tuesday constituted a committee to investigate the case. The committee comprises vice chancellor of the Jinnah Sindh Medical University Prof S.M. Tariq Rafi, Dow University of Health Sciences registrar Prof Shaikh Nadeem Ahmed and Karachi University controller of examination Prof Arshad Aazmi.

“The body will probe the real reasons behind the student’s death as well as the allegations relating to the examination system of private medical institutions and their facilities. It should submit its report/recommendations within 15 days,” says a notification released by the principal secretary of the governor.

The DIG-West, on the other hand, set up a committee comprising the DSP of Nazimabad and the SHO of the Taimuria police station to look into the incident while considering the allegation levelled by the family of the deceased student. However, the police said the Basit’s family had not yet formally approached the police for the registration of a case.

“But we have initiated work on our own,” said Inspector Irfan Cobra, SHO of the Taimuria police station, after orders from the DIG-West.

“We have also recorded statements of different people, including class-fellows of Basit, staff of the university and its faculty members. The university watchman who was the first to witness him [Basit] in flames has told the police that he saw the student entering the university without carrying anything and after a few minutes he heard his screams. He rushed to the site and found him in flames.”

‘An individual act’

According to the report submitted by the university to the governor office, the institution acted as per its rules and the unfortunate incident “was an individual act on part of the student”.

Basit Jamal Siddiqui, the report says, failed to turn up on time for the supplementary examination of operative dentistry at Hamdard University, main campus. The examination took place from 11am to 1pm but he arrived at 1.30pm after the examination was over and the examiner had left the campus.

“His request to sit for the exam was declined per examination rules. He then went to the Hamdard Dental College in North Nazimabad around 2.30pm and requested the management to consider his request, which was again turned down.

“Thereafter, he went outside the college premises, drew fuel from his car and immolated himself and walked towards the campus. The dental college staff immediately took notice of the same and tried to put out the fire.

“He was taken to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and, after initial treatment, shifted to the Civil Hospital Karachi’s burns ward. But, unfortunately, he died a few hours later,” the report says.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2016

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