Had there been a demand for justice for Faizan, the tragic death of the JU student could have been averted : Faizan Ahmed’s mother


  • August 16, 2023
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In a span of 10 months, two young students have died in the two of the most prestigious education institutions in West Bengal. In both the cases, the deaths have been attributed to ragging in hostels. While the death of Faizan Ahmed in IIT-Kharagpur last year didn’t create any hue and cry, the gory details of ragging culture inside Jadavpur University which came out in the open following the tragic death of a newly admitted first-year student has shocked everyone and have led to a huge public outcry. A report by Groundxero

 

The intense public outrage following the coming out of shocking details of violent and sadistic ragging of freshers inside Jadavpur University main hostel, that in most probability resulted in the tragic death of a newly admitted first-year undergraduate student in Bengali Literature department, has, ironically provided the space to talk about another such incident which occurred last year – the murder of Faizan Ahmed – a third-year student of mechanical engineering at IIT Kharagpur  – whose decomposed body was found in a hostel room of the institute by students.

 

His tormenters, the senior student boarders of the University’s boys’ main hostel, tried to pass of his death as an act of suicide by falling from the verandah of 2nd floor of the hostel. So did the administration of IIT-K in the case of Faizan Ahmed. The charge of ragging was denied in both cases. Like the parents of Faizan, the parents and family members of the JU student, too, refused to accept the suicide story and alleged that their son was murdered by the senior hostellers, who mentally, physically and sexually tortured him, which led to his death.

 

Faizan’s death didn’t create any public and mass outrage in the state. The students in IIT Kharagpur also refused to accept the suicide story, they protested, held a night-long public meeting with the director, and organized a candlelight march in solidarity demanding justice for Faizan. In the case of the student in JU, as soon as the story of his death broke out, there has been a deluge of public anger and reactions. The social media is flooded with narratives of current and ex-students of JU sharing gory details of ragging culture prevalent in the hostels. They held the current senior hostel boarders, allegedly patronised by student union leaders of the engineering faculty, belonging to a particular student group, who refused to attribute his death to ragging before investigation by police and tried to pass it off as ‘unnatural death’, as being the primary culprits.

 

The entire media and all the mainstream political parties, including the ruling TMC jumped in, demanding action against the perpetrators. The Governor swung into action, visited the hostel and the university, held meetings with the university administration and assured strictest action.

 

With mounting public pressure, the police entered the hostel (16 hours after the death as per media reports), conducted investigations and reportedly uncovered evidence suggesting ragging by seniors being responsible for the first-year student’s death. Within days three senior students, including one ex-student, were arrested. Protest rallies and demonstrations are being held regularly inside the university and all over the state, demanding  justice for the first-year student and punishment for all the accused. The story of his death and Jadavpur University has been playing 24x 7 on all news channels.

 

What Faizan’s family faced, though, was completely different. There was no clamour for justice from any quarters. The newspapers reported the incident as an inside story. The IIT-K authorities claimed that he committed suicide due to academic pressure. The post-mortem conducted at Midnapore Hospital (WB) could not ascertain any concrete cause for his death. No poisonous substance was found inside his body, nor was there any hanging mark on his neck. The police too subscribed to the suicide theory, but the family members of Faizan continue to allege that he was murdered.

 

After two years of online classes due to the pandemic, Faizan left for IIT Kharagpur in December 2021. The young bright student was excited to experience the “real thing” at an IIT and his mother was elated that the dream was finally coming true. After just eight months, on October 14, 2022, Rehana, Faizan’s mother, got a call informing her of her son’s death. She refused to accept that her son has committed suicide. Faizan’s family suspects ragging to be the reason behind the death and have described it as “a clear case of murder.” Since then, she has been looking for answers — fighting a lone legal battle against a powerful institution like IIT-K and an indifferent state police.

 

The first-year student who took admission in Jadavpur University, too, had dreams. He chose to study Bengali Literature at Jadavpur University though he did get a chance to enroll in science stream. He came to Kolkata from Bagula, in Nadia district, accompanied by his father, took admission at JU, and since he was yet to be allocated a hostel seat, began to share a room with a senior at the hostel. He was attending classes, but just three days later, his father too got a call that his son had fallen from the hostel floor. By the time his family arrived, he was no more.

 

A few hours before he fell, he had called his mother, saying he was too scared and pleaded with her to come and take him away from the hostel. Some boarders reportedly also saw him walking down the corridor dressed in just a towel and blabbering – I am not gay. This suggests that he was sexually abused and/or tortured before his falling down from the hostel verandah.

 

In their petition in the High Court demanding fair investigation into murder of their son, Faizan’s parents had cited a Facebook post — ostensibly uploaded by IIT-K students in February 2022— which  suggested that Faizan had protested against some of his hostel seniors over the issue of ragging. Faizan had written to his hostel warden, complaining that he was afraid after an “ordeal” in which he was abused by senior students in the name of “assimilation.” He had urged the warden to look into the issue immediately and ensure that his safety and dignity are maintained. Faizan’s parents had lodged a complaint with police against seven people – five students, a teacher and a former hostel warden – of the institute, accusing them of ragging, criminal intimidation, destruction of evidence and causing hurt. The police, however, claimed that the ragging and his complaint against seniors in February can’t be linked to his death six months later. Both the IIT-K and the police didn’t take the ragging connection seriously.

 

What was initially passed off to be a case of death by suicide due to academic pressure, turned into a murder probe with the Calcutta High Court ordering the district’s top police officer to conduct a detailed investigation. The court said: “From the bare look of the body, it seems to be a clear case of ragging and student enmity taking horrendous proportions.”

 

On 25 June, 2023, Justice Rajshekhar Mantha of Calcutta High Court ordered exhumation of the remains of Faizan’s body for a second post-mortem, after forensic medicine expert Dr Ajay Gupta told the court on March 29 that he was not satisfied with the report of the first post-mortem. The second post-mortem, supervised by an HC-appointed forensic expert, mentioned Faizan’s injuries to be “ante-mortem” and “homicidal in nature”. The autopsy report submitted to the HC stated Faizan’s death was “due to profuse bleeding causing haemorrhagic shock and combined effect infused over chest and over head. Referring to the second post-mortem report, the Calcutta High Court said it is likely a murder and ordered Kharagpur police to include Section 302 in the IITian Faizan Ahmed death case.

 

Faizan’s grieving mother had glimpsed a ray of hope for justice for her only child when the Calcutta High Court not only declared Faizan’s death a case of homicide, but also constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate the case. However, the IIT-K authorities have appealed to a division bench of the High Court to ‘quash’ the single bench order. In their petition to the division bench, IIT-K argued that the basis for Justice Mantha’s declaration of Faizan’s death as a homicide, using the report of retired forensic expert Dr Ajay Kumar Gupta, ‘suffers from serious deficiencies,’ whereas the first autopsy report conducted at Medinipur hospital was ‘reliable’. IIT-K said the order had lowered the dignity of the institution and publicity of the issue has caused it a great loss of goodwill. In the appeal, it was said IIT officials had taken all steps against the raging-accused. The state government, too, has filed an appeal contesting the constitution of a SIT terming the single judge’s order as unconstitutional and without jurisdiction.

 

Reacting to these developments, Rehana told eNewsroom, “We harboured the concern that officials from IIT Kharagpur would attempt to obstruct the investigation. That’s why I wrote two letters – the first to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and later to the Chairman of the Minority Commission. In both, I appealed for their intervention, fearing that the powerful organisation that is IIT might hinder the probe. However, I’m unaware if any action was taken in response to my pleas.” Rehana is worried. She knows the fight is still not over. She added “I have said this before and reiterate it now – my battle wasn’t just for Faizan; it’s for every mother and parent whose sons and daughters reside in hostels while pursuing their education. We entrust our children to these institutions, but instead of nurturing them, we sometimes receive lifeless bodies. This must cease”. She concluded by saying, “Had there been a demand for justice for Faizan, the tragic death of Swapnadip could have been averted.”

 

The death of the first-year student has given the rulers and the media an opportunity to orchestrate a mass hysteria against JU and the students therein. Conflicting political interests are at play, each with their own narrow agenda. The Chief Minister has called Jadavpur “antankapuri” (terror-house) and that the killers of the first-year student are “marxbadi” (Marxists). The State Education Minister claimed that the killers threw off the student in the name of Mao and Stalin. These irresponsible statements, when the investigation is going on, is not without reason. It is being deliberately done to set a narrative vilifying the Left forces and add fuel to the media orchestrated mass hysteria so that the role of the state government in the incident is not scrutinised. What JNU is to RSS-BJP, JU is to Mamata. Time and again, the students in JU have challenged the rulers’ diktats and narratives. The smear campaign against the university students and teachers is to deflect attention from the role of the state government run university in preventing ragging in the hostel, and use the incident to launch an attack on the independent nature of the JU University, its students and teachers.

 

Sadly, the students affiliated to various left parties and groups in the university are also engaged in mudslinging at each other. Instead of critiquing their own silence in regards to the issue, and starting a political discourse focusing on the role of student organisations in dealing with ragging inside hostels and campus, the incident is being used to demonise the particular group leading the engineering faculty union. It will be another tragedy if the students too are blinded by their internal campus rivalries and fall into the rulers’ trap. Spreading canards, social media trail and toxic trolling of each other will not ensure justice to the bereaved family. The struggle for the left forces, for now, is two-fold. To fight within the campus against regressive political forces that see no harm in ragging freshers, and enables the tradition to continue unabated in the name of hostel-sentiment, and at the same time, resist the outside reactionary forces which has made the particular incident an issue to attack the very character of an independent university. So far, this seems impossible.

 

We don’t know what will happen in the case of the minor first-year student of JU after the media hype and the clamour by political players die down. Like Faizan’s mother, the JU sudent’s parents too might have to carry on a long legal battle to get justice. In those troubled times, when hate and violence have become normalised, we can only hope that the students, teachers and administrators will ensure that in future no parents would have to receive lifeless bodies of their children from the universities and colleges, where they go in pursuit of their dreams.

 

……………..

 

* Six more students of JU were arrested this morning in connection with the incident.

 

** The division bench of the Calcutta High Court in a hearing today upheld the order of the single bench which had declared the death of IIT Kharagpur student Faizan Ahmed a ‘homicide’ and asked the SIT to submit the progress report in the case before the single bench which was supposed to be tabled in July itself.

 

Note : The name of the student and his picture has been removed after it came to our knowledge that he was still a minor and the case involve sexual abuse and torture.

 

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