HYDERABAD: As the cause of Namrita Chandani’s death, whose body was found from her hostel room in SMBBMU Larkana on September 16, remained shrouded in mystery, doctors, students and civil society representatives took to the streets in several cities of Sindh on Wednesday. The clamour for a judicial inquiry into the death of the final year student of Bachelors of Dental Sciences at the SMBBMU’s Bibi Aseefa Dental College and removal of Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Anila Attaur Rehman echoed in the protests.
Police officials informed that two students have been detained for interrogation in connection with the incident. Meanwhile, Dr Amrita of Chandka Medical College Hospital, Larkana, who conducted Chandani’s postmortem has reserved her opinion about the cause of her death until she receives the histopathology, chemical and radiology reports. Her family has, however, rejected the postmortem report.
Suspecting foul play
The brother of the deceased, Dr Vishal Chandani, who is a consultant at Dow University of Health Sciences, as well as the students of her university, are convinced that she did not commit suicide; rather it is a murder case. “When someone commits suicide by strangulating the neck, the mark is left on a different part of the neck. But on her neck, the mark is as if someone squeezed it with a cable,” he said while talking to the media. A dupatta was found wrapped around Chandani’s neck in her hostel room.
The brother said that he had spoken to her two days prior to her death. “She was hopeful that she would secure a position among the top 10 students.” Citing his education in forensic medicine, he said he does not trust the reports of government hospitals, adding that they should be allowed to send her samples for the tests to the AKUH. He appealed to all the university’s students and their parents to raise their voice if they were being subjected to blackmail or harassment by their teachers.
Speaking at a protest, a students’ rights activist, Sindhu Nawaz, said that the death appeared to be a murder and the brother of Chandani, being a doctor, was also convinced. She questioned why her mobile phone was taken away by the warden and was only handed over to the police after three hours. “Restoration of the student unions can help bring up and address harassment cases,” she contended.
The students of SMBBMU Larkana, who took out a protest rally, alleged that Chandani’s death was not a suicide but a planned murder. Munawar Ali, Naveed Ahmed and other students who spoke at the protest demanded a judicial inquiry and making the provost, hostel clerk, a watchman, a security guard and some staff of the VC secretariat part of the probe.
The local leaders of Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the lawyers of Larkana bar association and hundreds of civil society representatives held a protest outside Larkana Press Club on Wednesday. Some of them called for constituting a high-powered joint investigation team while others reiterated the demand for a judicial inquiry. The call for the removal of the VC also resonated in the protest.
The VC, Anila Attaur Rehman, whose administration has come under criticism after the incident, made a display of her exasperation by slapping a journalist in Ghotki district. While visiting Chandani’s home for condolence, she was asked some critical questions about the student’s death. She first issued threats to the local journalist, Ramesh Kumar, and later tried to snatch his mobile phone in which he was recording her version. Frustrated, she slapped his face while sitting among dozens of people including family members of Chandani. The media workers staged a protest but the VC appeared unmoved.
President offers condolence
Meanwhile, President Arif Alvi spoke to a brother of Namrita, Rahul Kumar Chandani, over the phone from Islamabad and condoled over her death. The president reportedly assured the family that the police investigation will be conducted as per the demand of the family. The students in dozens of universities in Sindh held demonstrations on Wednesday, demanding justice for Chandani.
Meanwhile, the Sindh government has written a letter to the Larkana District and Sessions Judge, seeking a judicial investigation into mysterious Chandani’s death. The letter requests that the investigation be completed within 30 days so that further action may be taken. The letter also states that the local administration and police officials will offer their complete support to the judicial commission.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2019.