Thursday, January 24, 2008

RU teachers for complete solution; Family of killed rickshawpuller seeks justice

The family of rickshaw-puller Afzal Hossain, reportedly killed in police firing during last August's campus unrest at Rajshahi University (RU), has demanded justice and compensation for his death.

Afzal's wife Asma Begum along with her three minor daughters and mother-in-law are surviving on a meal, or less, a day as they wait for justice for their loss.

The police had initially claimed that students have beaten Afzal to death. Later when his autopsy report showed that he died from shot wounds, police dropped the issue of Afzal's death from the cases filed against students for lack of witnesses or evidence of who killed him.

Afzal's family now lives in a tiny straw hut at Jalmunda village of Jaldhaka upazila in Nilphamari district in dire poverty.

Choking on her tears, his 25 year old wife Asma said, "I heard many teachers were punished (for violating emergency rules) and later released from jail, what about the murder of my poor husband? He was a good man."

Afzal's 60-year old mother Siratunnesa demanded justice for her son's death. She said that they were living on next to nothing since Afzal's death. Asma had to send two of her children to live with her mother, as she is too poor to keep them herself.

Afzal used to ply rickshaw no.15 of Rabi's Garage at Hadi Crossing in Rajshahi city.

On the day of the incident, at around 11am, Afzal was waiting outside RU Medical Centre after carrying an injured student there on his rickshaw.

Eyewitnesses and newspaper reports say he received bullets when riot-gear police entered the campus firing shots and moved towards the gymnasium attacked by angry students.

Afzal was rushed to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital (RMCH) in an ambulance but succumbed to his injuries on the way. He was refused admission and his returned to RU medical centre.

Later students paraded his body in protest of the police atrocity.

Rajshahi Metropolitan Police in a press release that evening claimed that Afzal died of beating by unruly students.

The same night, sub inspector SM Faruk Hossain of Motihar police station lodged a case against some 2500 unnamed students for the murder and violent activities on RU campus.

However, Afzal's autopsy report said his death was caused by shock and haemorrhage following the shot on his head. Following the report, the investigation officer (IO) of the case sub inspector Rajab Ali on October 20 pressed charges against 10 students for violent activities but dropped all reference of Afzal's killing from the case.

In the final report, the IO said no witness or evidence was found to identify Afzal's killers to press charge against. He added that if any witnesses were found regarding Afzal's death, police would take up the matter.

Police and prosecution witnesses during trial of a case over RU unrest told courts that students used brick-bats and wooden weapons during violence and none of them were seen using any firearms.

In total four cases filed over RU campus unrest, eight teachers were arrested, taken on remand. The court later acquitted four teachers.

Meanwhile the government on Monday has asked local authorities in Rajshahi to drop the case filed by SI SM Faruk Hossain against students.

Rajshahi University Progressive Teachers' Association yesterday urged the caretaker government to solve the crisis regarding the teachers and students of Rajshahi University and Dhaka University without hurting their dignity.

"A complete and just solution to the crisis is yet to be done as some of the teachers and students were branded as criminals through conviction", said former RU vice-chancellor Saidur Rahman Khan.

He was reading out a paper at a press conference at the Deans' Complex of the university.

Expressing resentment over the conviction against the teachers and students, he said the convicts are still aggrieved.

Association convener Abdus Sobhan, Moloy Kumar Bhowmik, Mizan Uddin, Jalal Uddin, SM Abu Bakkar, Shamsuddin Ilias, Fayekuzzman, Muhammad Naser, Sujit Kumar Sarker, Muhammad Nurullah, Hasibul Alam Prodhan, Dr Anisur Rahman and Dr Ahsan Kabir, among others, were present.

The teachers and students were convicted for protesting injustice. Although they were relieved of punishment through clemency, they had been branded as criminals, he said.

"We think the conviction against the university teachers and students will not solve the crisis, rather it will intensify if they are not acquitted from the charges" they said adding that the conviction will create scopes for harassment.

The teachers said they fear the convicted students might face difficulties in getting government jobs and other facilities in future.

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