A teacher of Rajshahi University (RU) was found dead behind his house at the teachers’ quarters on campus early yesterday.
Dr Sheikh Taher Ahmed, 59, the founding professor of geology and mining department, had been missing since February 1. Police and firefighters recovered the body from inside a sewer behind his house No-23 west at around 7:30am. Rajshahi Mayor Mizanur Rahman Minu and RU Proctor Shamsul Sarkar were present at that time.
The body bore a number of injury marks in the head, back, hands, and legs.
A two-member medical board headed by Dr Emdadur Rahman of Rajshahi Medical College Hospital yesterday carried out an autopsy on the body. A member of the board said Taher died of a massive brain haemorrhage resulted from a hit by something like a rod or a hockey stick.
“One heavy hit on the back of his head might have caused his death sometime in last 48 hours. He had suffered a two-inch deep fracture in the head,” he added.
An advisory council member of Jatiyatabadi Teachers’ Forum at RU, Taher was to retire next year. Members of his family and RU sources however said of late he had dissociated himself from teachers politics in disgust at its present-day standards.
The killing of Dr Taher, which followed the murder of another RU teacher Prof Muhammad Yunus over a year ago, triggered off a series of fierce demonstrations by the students.
A sense of insecurity seemed to have gripped the teachers who along with the students held a sit-in outside the residence of Taher yesterday morning.
RU Teachers Association at an urgent meeting last night announced a seven-day protest programme that includes among others work stoppage for today and a two-day strike beginning from February 5.
RU syndicate last night decided to file a murder case and press for a judicial inquiry into the killing.
In protest at the killing, teachers and students of the geology and mining department announced an indefinite strike with effect from today.
Taher used to visit Dhaka at regular intervals since shifting his family there seven months ago for the education of his daughter. He went missing shortly after returning to Rajshahi Wednesday.
Late in the evening, he phoned his wife Sultana Ahmed in Dhaka to let her know that he had reached campus safely. Later at around 8:00pm, he called his daughter Sunita and said he was going to have dinner within minutes, family sources said.
Since then he could not be reached despite repeated attempts, said his son Himel, an official of British American Tobacco Ltd.
Taher’s wife informed Prof Sultan-ul Islam that her husband was missing. The other teachers and employees led by RU Registrar Abdus Salam then started to scour the campus for him.
Dr Sultanul Islam of the geology department said Taher returned to Rajshahi to attend a planning committee meeting of the department scheduled for Thursday.
A source said he was among two expert-level members of the committee assigned to select teachers for promotion or recruitment.
Meanwhile, police said primary investigations suggest that Prof Taher might have been killed in the room of his guard Jahangir.
Police recovered a bloodstained pillow, carpet and bedcover from the room on the ground floor of the two-storey house, said a police official.
He was bleeding from his mouth and nose when police recovered the body at 7.30am.
Jahangir, who was arrested yesterday, denied his involvement. He told police that Taher was home when he left the house Wednesday evening. But he did not find him when he returned at 10:00pm.
An assistant commissioner of Detective Branch of police in Rajshahi said Jahangir’s version did not sound credible.
“He seems very likely to know the killers, ” he observed.
The killers locked every room and the main gate before leaving the house. “They dumped the body inside a sewer probably to keep the murder hidden at least for some days,” said Faizur Rahman, officer in charge of Motihar Police Station.
Besides Jahangir, two other guards–Alfaz and Zahrul–were arrested and being interrogated.
Dr Taher was born in Kolkata in December 1945. After majoring in geology at Dhaka University in 1960, he joined geography department of RU in 1973.
He was shifted to the geology and mining department in 1976.
He served as the department chairman and dean of the life and earth faculty. Before joining the university, he was a geologist at Petrobangla.
A pall of gloom descended on the campus as the news of Taher’s death spread. Hundreds of teachers, students, and people from all over Rajshahi city started gathering at his house from 8.30am.
His colleagues and students described him as a man of principle.
“He was so good that it’s hard to believe that he could have an enemy–be it political or personal,” said Assistant Prof Aminul Islam.
Former RUVC Abdul Khaleque said the killings of Prof Yunus and Dr Taher are no separate incidents, they are rather part of a well-orchestrated campaign to wipe out the country’s progressive force.
As police was taking away Taher’s body for autopsy at around 10:00am, students and teachers stopped the pick-up. They let the law enforcers go only after the RU Vice Chancellor Altaf Hossain assured them of doing everything necessary for a proper investigation and an immediate trial.
Taher’s son Himel too took part in the sit-in. After a namaj-e-janaza, he brought the body to Dhaka in the evening.
Chairman Sayed Shamsuddin Ahmed said, “We will not participate in any academic activity until the killers are arrested and meted out due punishment.”
The department teachers also demanded a judicial investigation.
Bangladesh Chhatra League barricaded the Dhaka-Rajshahi Highway for three hours from 11:00am and called a students’ strike for today.
Progressive Teachers’ Association announced a three-day work abstention and demanded the RU authorities declare a three-day mourning.