By Z Ali
HYDERABAD: A student’s death – the possibility of suicide is being considered – in a girls’ hostel of the Sindh University (SU) has mystified the academia, her family and the people concerned with the varsity.
The police and the varsity’s management seem convinced that 26-year-old N*, a final year student of the Sindhi department, committed suicide. However, the family and Sindh University Teachers Association (Suta) seem unwilling to fathom the idea that she took her life. They have demanded that a judicial or a high-level police inquiry be conducted to unravel the enigma.
On Sunday evening, N was found dead in her room in SU’s undergraduate girls’ hostel, which is one of the three girls’ hostels in the university providing boarding facility to around 1,600 female students. Her body hung from the ceiling fan with her neck strangulated by a piece of cloth fastened in one of the three blades in the fan.
According to the Provost, Anila Soomro, the ground plus two-storey undergraduate hostel was almost empty due to winter vacations. Only three of some 450 female students who are provided accommodation at this hostel were staying, having returned a day or two before the incident.
N’s room was on the first floor while the other two girls were staying in another room, which was 16 to 17 rooms away, she added.
“The hostel warden [Mahjabeen] went on routine visit at around 6:30 pm,” shared Soomro. “She knocked N’s door but she didn’t respond. She ringed her mobile number but got no response.” Soomro was informed around 6:45pm that from the room’s ventilator, the staff saw the girl hanging from the fan.
Meanwhile, Suta president Dr Azhar Ali Shah refused to subscribe to this initial assessment of the police and the varsity administration. “One important thing to note is that SSP Jamshoro Tariq Wilayat resides in a university-provided accommodation near the vice-chancellor’s house. His investigation and report may not be independent and impartial,” pointed out Dr Shah, demanding that a judicial probe besides a high-level police inquiry be conducted.
The provost told The Express Tribune that on December 31, N informed the warden, Mahjabeen, that she was not feeling well. She asked her permission to leave the hostel at around 8pm so that she could go to a doctor. However, the hostel doesn’t allow inmates to leave after 6:30pm or enter after 8pm, she added.
Dr Arfana Mallah, the general secretary of Suta, told The Express Tribune that they have heard ‘unverified rumours’ that her family allegedly threatened to kill her. “She was [romantically] involved with someone. Her parents came to know about it. They wanted to kill her as kari [honour killing].”
Nevertheless, the young woman’s brother, A*, rubbished these insinuations while also taking exception to the university and the police suggesting that the death was a suicide and not a murder.
“She returned from home [in Kamber-Shahdadkot district] to university a day before her death,” he said. “At home, we neither observed any problem in her personal life nor had she been dealing with any depression.”
N sat in her final year exams before the winter vacations. She returned to the university to submit her thesis.
Interestingly, the closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras are not installed in any of the three hostels, which are Marvi hostel, undergraduate hostel and postgraduate hostel, all of which are under the administrative control of Soomro. The working women hostel is also located in proximity.
*Names withheld to protect identities