JAMSHORO: The white doors of the rooms in Marvi Hostel have something or the other written on them. Colourful shiny alphabet stickers spell the word ‘Welcome’ on one. On another someone has written ‘Hai hai jawaani’ with a marker. But the door to room no 36 is clean, even though the big wall inside is decorated with stickers indicating a birthday celebration there.

There are five nawar beds lined up in the room, taking up most of the space inside. A chair lies fallen to one side on the floor beside a bed. There is a broken door latch on another bed. Above, one blade of the ceiling fan is slightly bent. There is an empty cardboard takeaway food box on the last bed in the room.

ROOM no 36 of Marvi Hostel.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
ROOM no 36 of Marvi Hostel.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

According to the hostel watchman, Naila Rind, the girl who was found hanging from the ceiling fan in this room, had ordered a burger for herself. In the small cupboard in front of her bed, there are a few of her clothes on one side and many books on the shelves.

What happened at the University of Sindh’s Jamshoro campus on Sunday has everyone speculating. People are saying all kinds of things and pointing fingers at each other as the dead student’s family looks for answers. They insist that she was not one who would give up on life so easily.

The police have also come under criticism for not having registered an FIR as yet and for failing to make any arrests. They are also taking the flak for having performed postmortem on the deceased without her family’s consent. But they say that they tried to call her home number, but no one answered.

According to police, the first contact with the family was made when one of Naila’s brothers called on her phone from Sukkur at night. That’s when he was informed that she was no more. By that time the body had been taken into custody and the medical procedure had already been carried out.

“All evidence points to suicide, but we are trying to handle the case and our investigations with caution,” says Jamshoro SSP retired Captain Tariq Walayat, who was one of the first people to arrive on the scene as his office is right on the campus.

“I and my men were in Marvi Hostel two minutes after being informed that a female student had seen another hanging from the ceiling fan through the crack in the curtains of the corridor window of room no 36,” SSP Tariq recalled. “As the door was latched from inside, we forced it open to save the student, but she had been gone for four to five hours by then,” he added.

There are two windows in the first-floor hostel room. One opens to the corridor and the other is at the back overlooking the grounds. Both windows have grills, which are intact. No evidence of anyone entering from that side was found. There was only the door which was latched from inside and only Naila, who was alone inside, could have done that.

Police are currently examining her phone data, which they describe as extensive.

“There are numerous Sindhi-language messages written in the Roman script. There are also pictures of a recent birthday celebration of another girl in the same room in her phone,” the SSP says, brushing aside rumours of room no 36 not being Naila’s room. “They are saying that her room was no 34, which is untrue. This was her room and she shared it with four other girls. Even her student ID card says ‘room no 36-A’,” he adds.

But the hostel is vacant right now as everyone is home and the few girls who were there, like Naila, were there over the weekend to either submit their final year thesis or for some other official work.

There is a long boundary wall around the University of Sindh and the Mehran University, which was built about two years ago by police and the Rangers to stop the land mafia from encroaching on university land. According to SSP Tariq, police know about the presence of “anti-state elements” in the area. There have been several clashes.

Dr Anila Naz Soomro, the hostel provost who is a grade 20 officer from Johi, expressed the hope that the incident won’t hurt the future of other female students in Sindh who dream of going to university. She remembers Naila as a quiet and studious woman who usually kept to herself. Although she had completed her Masters and should have vacated her room last month, she had sought extension of her stay there as she wanted to pursue further studies.

Outside, NGOs and political groups are protesting vociferously, calling upon the authorities to unearth the truth behind Naila Rind’s death. Inside, the police record statements of teachers and hostel staff. “She was born in 1989, making her 27 years of age. One can imagine the pressures on a Baloch girl with a rural background, who wants to study instead of settling down,” one teacher commented.

Some staffers fear that room no 36 will now be seen as haunted. “We also expect to hear about ghost sightings here now,” one of them whispered.

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2017



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