Keepsakes are all she has



The books he used to read, the prizes he won, and the clothes he wore — all are now stowed gracefully in a showcase, just the way Abrar Fahad used to keep them in his dormitory in Buet.

A pair of blue sneakers that still looks new sits on the middle row. Just a row above lies his other belongings, starting from his wristwatch, spectacles, pen, prayer cap, tasbih, calculator, nail clipper to body lotion, toothbrush and hair oil.

Identity cards of the university and his college rest in another row along with a yellow envelope which reads “Welcome to EEE Family, Buet”.

His mother, Rokeya Begum, kept all these items as keepsakes in their house in Kushtia. Abrar died an agonising death after being beaten up brutally by some Chhatra League men at Buet’s Sher-e-Bangla hall in the early hours of October 7 last year.

Rokeya looks at these memories and speaks to herself in delirium.

“Everything in the showcase reminds me of my son. I look at the belongings as these are all I have left now,” a sobbing Rokeya told The Daily Star over phone on Sunday.

“Since his college life at Notre Dame College in Dhaka, he used to keep everything — his bed, clothes, table — in Arambagh hostel very neat and clean. I am trying to keep [his belongings] in a similar way,” said the 53-year-old mother.

The heinous murder a year ago has completely torn apart a happy family. Abrar’s mother is devastated. His father, Barkat Ullah, is suffering from health complications at the age of 58. All their dreams and aspirations centred on their bright son now lie shattered.

Even as he suffers health complications, Abrar’s father quit his job two months ago so that he can make the frequent trips to Dhaka to attend trial proceedings of the murder case of his son.

His younger brother, Abrar Faiyaj, was so shocked by his brother’s demise that he had to leave Dhaka College. It was Abrar who helped Faiyaj get admitted to the college. Now he studies at class XII at Kushtia Government College.

“Our happy family is now full of distress. All we are concerned with now is when we will get justice,” the distressed mother said.

Before his death, Abrar, a second-year student of electrical and electronic engineering department of Buet, was brutally tortured for hours in room 2011, which used to be a “torture cell” of the BCL men. The incident sparked a firestorm of protests on campuses across the country.

‘I WANT JUSTICE’

Recalling the last time she spoke to Abrar, Rokeya said she kept the bus ticket of Super Deluxe Paribahan that her son used to go to Dhaka from Kushtia at 9:30am.

“Reaching the Buet hall in the evening, Abrar called me over phone and said not to worry. He said he shared the food that I cooked for him with one of his roommates. This was my last conversation with him,” she said, fighting to hold back her tears.

Rokeya said that both her sons’ lives revolved around her.

“Even after his admission at Buet, I used to go there and pay his fees. My younger son too is like him. They are very innocent. So what offence could Abrar have committed that he needed to pay with his life?” she questioned.

“I want justice,” she said.

Rokeya is now waiting for her younger son to grow up.

“Faiyaj has been doing good all along, like Abrar. He is still trying… Now only Allah knows what awaits us in the future,” she said.

For Faiyaj, it took at least seven months to cope with a changed life.

He said they initiated “Shaheed Abrar Fahad Foundation” in the hope that the foundation would provide scholarship and financial support to insolvent bright students. But they still have not been able to manage sufficient fund.

For now, they just keep people updated on their fight for justice for Abrar.

The family said they are happy to see the trial proceedings going well. They hope that they will get justice.

TRIAL UNDERWAY, THREE STILL ABSCONDING

On November 13 last year, detectives submitted a 105-page charge sheet against 25 Buet students in connection with the murder. The accused were mostly leaders and activists of the university’s Chhatra League unit.

The horrifying description of the torture came up in the charge sheet. It stated that 11 of the accused either hit Abrar with cricket stumps and skipping ropes or slapped and kicked him for hours.

The 14 others abetted the killing by calling Abrar to room 2011 or by carrying the unconscious victim to another room and finally to the landing of the staircase, according to the charge sheet.

Of the 25 accused, 22 were earlier arrested and remanded several times. During the investigation, eight of the accused gave confessional statements to magistrates on different dates.

Three other accused — Mustaba Rafid, Muhammad Morshed-Uz-Zaman Mondol alias Jishan and Ehtashamul Rabbi Tanim — have been absconding since the incident.

On September 15, the Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 of Dhaka framed charges against all the 25 accused.

On October 5, Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 of Dhaka recorded the statement of complainant Barkat Ullah, father of the victim, for over an hour. He sought exemplary punishment for all 25 accused.

CHANGES IN BUET

Abrar’s death seemed to have brought changes to the campus environment and shaken up the Buet authorities.

Following his death, students erupted in fiery protests, forcing the authorities to ban all political activities on the campus on October 11 last year.

The authorities later expelled 26 students, mostly leaders of the university’s BCL unit who were accused in the case.

The fearful environment that hung over the campus in the aftermath of the murder has now passed. The central BCL has not formed any new committees in the university.

“Now we have no fear of BCL. We can express our minds freely — on Facebook and on campus. But the sad part is we had to lose a friend to achieve this freedom,” said a Buet student who was involved in the protests.

Several Buet students said BCL men earlier used to monitor Facebook posts critical of the government and the ruling party. The BCL men used to take screenshots of such posts and circulate them among themselves to target students.  Some students used to be questioned, interrogated or even assaulted over the posts, after being labelled as “Shibir” activists. 

But with the ban on politics on the campus, these practices are gone now, they said.





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