Bangladesh Chhatra League's Khulna University of Engineering and Technology (Kuet) unit, whose members stand accused of having played some role in the untimely death of a professor of the Electrical and Electronics Engineering (EEE) department of the university on Tuesday, have sought refuge behind a claim of 'dirty politics' leading the finger of blame to point at them.
The university Chhatra League tried to present their version of what transpired when a horde of their members, also residents of the university's Lalon Shah Hall, met with Prof Md Selim Hossain in the hours before he passed away on the day of his death, through a press conference at Khulna Press Club on Friday.
KUET BCL said the image of the ruling party's student front is being tarnished in this way.
In a written statement, Sadman Nahyan Sejan, general secretary of KUET Chhatra League, said Dr Md Selim Hossain of the Electrical and Electronics Engineering (EEE) department was appointed as the provost of Lalan Shah Hall.
“Whenever a new provost is appointed, the students of the final batch of the residential hall are introduced to the provost by the Student Welfare Committee.”
Sadman Nahyan tried to portray their reasons behind meeting Prof Selim Hossain that day as completely routine
He said Prof Selim scheduled a meeting in his office at 12 noon on Tuesday to get acquainted with the students and inform them about the various activities in the hall. Students were approximately 40 minutes late to attend the scheduled meeting after class. “He was later met on the way and informed of the reason for the delay. Then he told us to come to his office. After the professor unlocked his office, the students entered with his permission.”
BCL leader Sadman further said that as there was not enough space for all the students, Prof Selim Hossain asked the seniors to sit inside and the juniors to wait outside for a while. After exchanging greetings with the seniors, he called the students waiting outside and brought them inside.
“At that time, he told them, he had work in the lab at half-past two. He would go to the hall in the evening and meet the students. And then he left,” said Sadman.
Sadman added, "We do not know the exact cause of death of Prof Selim Hossain. However, according to the death certificate, it is known that he died of a stroke. He was the guardian of the hall. We went there to talk to him about the hall.”
“One party is painting us as criminals by focusing on our meeting with Prof Selim Hossain. They have also given statements regarding this. I am demanding the vice-chancellor take action against us after scrutinizing the CCTV footage of the meeting.”
Deputy Communications and Information Secretary of the University BCL committee Jamiur Rahman, Assistant Editor Ahsanul Abedin, and Sub-Library Secretary Mahmudul Hasan were present at the press conference.
Later, the leaders and workers of BCL took up positions in front of the administrative building while an emergency meeting of the university's Syndicate was in progress. They submitted a memorandum to the vice-chancellor demanding five-points.
The main thrust of their demands is to not ban student politics at KUET. They also include the formation of a probe committee consisting of administrative officers, judicial magistrates and teachers from the university to uncover the truth behind Prof Selim Hossain's death, and to ensure the maximum punishment for any BCL members found to be guilty.
They also demanded compensation of Tk 1 crore for Prof Selim's family within a month, as well as the offer of a permanent job for at least one member of his family at KUET.
Forced to close
UNB has reviewed CCTV footage from at least three different locations that have been leaked to the media.
Footage of the path leading away from the EEE Building (Camera 1) shows the meeting outside the building and the professor turning back to lead dozens of male students, Sadman among them, back into the building, up the stairs (CAM2) and into his office (CAM3).
The third camera also captures their departure from his office, and minutes later his own, locking the door behind him. It cannot be said that there are any visible signs of distress on him physically at that point, as again he walks away crisply.
But the allegations raised are of 'mental torture and harassment'.
KUET was declared closed till December 13 as tensions spread through the campus over the death of Prof Selim Hossain.
Students were asked to leave their residential halls by 4pm on Friday, in an order signed by the Registrar (Acting) of the University, Engineer Md Anisur Rahman Bhuiyan.
The decision to close was taken at the emergency meeting of the KUET Syndicate on Friday, after the untimely death of the professor - in the aftermath, allegedly, of mental torture and harassment by Chhatra League members - triggered unrest on the campus.
According to his fellow faculty members, Prof Selim died hours after some Chhatra League activists led by Sadman Nahyan Sejan confined him in his office and mentally tortured him to accept their choice as dining manager of Lalan Shah Hall for December.
CCTV footage from outside the teacher's office room showed several students, belonging to Sadman’s group, entered his room around 12:30 pm on Tuesday. It is not true though that the students led the way. If anything, he walked well ahead of them.
His colleagues further alleged Prof Selim was subjected to abuse, humiliation and threats while confined.
Meanwhile, Professor Selim's family members said that the teacher reached his residence near the campus around 2:00 pm after the incident on Tuesday and went to the washroom. But when he was taking too long to come out, they broke down the door to enter the bathroom and found him in an unconscious state.
Although they rushed him to Khulna Medical College Hospital, doctors there could only declare him dead.
Following the incident, the teachers' union on Thursday boycotted academic activities demanding the accused students’ permanent expulsion from the university through a fair investigation.