Saad died the kind of lonely death that happens in a society terrorised by violent politics, teachers and students of Bangladesh Agriculture University have said.
A former organising secretary of the Chhatra League's Ashraful Haque hall unit, Saad was a class representative who had unparalleled popularity on the campus.
Yet there was no one beside him for the seven hours he writhed in pain on the floor of Mymensingh district hospital's congested surgery ward. Neither his two roommates nor any of his classmates, juniors from his department or any other friends from a university of around 5,000 students paid him a visit.
This because nobody dared to be around him, given the fearsome atmosphere the BCL men have created on the campus over the past five years, said the teachers and students.
“Saad's killing is not an isolated incident. It is the result of an uncontrolled culture of torture creating a reign of terror at the university for years,” said a student, asking not to be named.
Saad's faculty wore a deserted look when these correspondents went there on the morning of April 7, six days after his death from a savage beating by a group of about 14 BCL activists. Only a single poster was there displaying a photo of Saad and demanding his killers' punishment.
A number of general students declined to talk about Saad, as two of his alleged killers were roaming about freely the campus.
“Students consider the Chhatra League a dreaded criminal organisation that has terrorised general students over the years. Nobody will say a word about Saad's murder, let alone answer the question of why they did not stand by their friend in need,” said another student.
It was the BCL attackers themselves who had Saad admitted to Mymensingh Medical College Hospital at 9:30pm on March 31, after beating him in a way that ruptured his liver and caused a brain hemorrhage.
His attackers abandoned him at 11:00pm since when Saad was alone on his deathbed. He succumbed to his injuries around 10:00am the next day.
“Nurse, nurse…,” Saad kept crying in pain in his last-ditch efforts to draw the attention of the hospital staff.
“Son, how can I be of any help when no one is with you?” replied on-duty nurse Hosneara as she ran to and fro among patients overcrowding the 24-bed ward.
Talking to The Daily Star, a pensive Hosneara recollected the moments, still haunted by how Saad died from his injuries.
Borrowing the cellphone of a patient, Saad called his brother around 1:30am on April 1.
“We don't have close relatives to seek help from in Mymensingh. I tried my best,” said Saad's elder brother Moaz Ibne Momtaz in an agitated tone.
“Saad told me that he was left abandoned at the hospital and was getting no treatment, presumably because of the attackers' political links,” Moaz added.
An investigation by The Daily Star reveals that Saad was misdiagnosed at the MMCH and he did not receive any treatment in the last few hours of his life. Experienced doctors in Mymensingh and Dhaka said his life could have been saved with timely diagnosis and proper treatment.
The university authorities did nothing but provide an ambulance to take him to the MMCH.
University physician Abul Kalam Azad, who first examined Saad at the dormitory around 8:00pm on March 31, said it was not his duty to raise an alarm about political violence.
It was for the authorities to look after the students, he added.
Proctor Shahidur Rahman Khan, whom many consider to be the man behind the BCL's audacious activities, claimed the university authorities were in the dark about the incident until Saad died.
“The university's chain of command did not work; it completely failed,” Shahidur told The Daily Star, pinning the blame on the ambulance driver for not informing them of the matter.
Protests against Saad's death brought together students from different departments, who shared tormenting memories from the very first day of their university life.
Shuphala (not her real name) on her first day was looking for her department for admission in February this year. The young man she inquired about the location from happened to be a BCL activist, who asked for her cellphone number and clung to her as long as he could.
As another master's student and cultural activist came forward to warn her of the situation on the campus, five BCL activists beat him up. Proctor Shahidur Rahman reached the scene only to leave the matter to be settled by BCL leaders.
The student filed an official complaint with the authorities, but in vain.
“It happens once or twice a week, if not every day. You'll never know the name of the victim unless he dies,” said a student, adding, every student must join the BCL to stay in the male dormitories.
Another student was hit in the face by a cellphone hurled at him by a BCL leader at the first meeting traditionally organised at the male dorms to "discipline" the newcomers. His "fault" was he said he wanted to join the Bangladesh Chhatra Union, a leftist student organisation.
Evening-time showdowns arranged by the BCL are mandatory for all male resident students in the first year. Those who fail are punished at meetings held after dinner every night at dimly-lit guest rooms dubbed as "torture cell" or "kathgora" (dock). There are rooms at every male dormitory for storing hockey sticks, cricket stumps, iron rods and other arms.
“If you walk by a guest room, you will listen to screams with all newcomers standing outside the locked doors,” said the master's student, himself a victim of BCL torture.
The female students-dominated protest against Saad's death reveals the fear among the male students of the BCL activists, who staged their own "protest" against the killing.
“The BCL men are protesting to weaken the general students' movement, a trick often played by the teachers patronising these criminal acts,” said another master's student.
Students say BCL men stalking and forcing female students to engage in relations with them are common.
Talking about the motive behind the killing of Saad, a senior student said, “Saad was an active Chhatra League activist of the previous committee on the campus. It was likely that his attackers had personal grudges against him."
BAU is no stranger to fatal BCL encounters. Last year, a child was killed in crossfire when two BCL factions engaged in a shootout. No action was taken; nobody was arrested; only the BCL committee was dissolved.
The culture of campus violence can come to an end only if the teachers give up their political and personal ambitions, a number of students said.
“Teachers must bear responsibility for this situation. A race among them for political dominance to grab important positions is the root of all terror,” said one of the students.
Speaking anonymously, a senior teacher said he along with many of his colleagues wondered why Saad, being a university student, had to die with nobody beside him.
“Who can give an answer to this intriguing question? Obviously we, the teachers, are at fault,” he added.