The authorities had been warned: if they failed to permanently remove Farhana Yeasmin Baten, a teacher who landed in hot water for forcibly cutting students' hair, Shamim Hossain would end his own life.
And, the third-year student of Cultural Heritage and Bangladesh Studies appeared to follow through on his threat on Sunday.
Flanked by his classmates and facing the teachers, Shamim began venting his frustrations and despair with a hand mic around 12 pm before taking out a bottle of what appeared to be poison and trying to gulp it down, reports bdnews24.com.
A big commotion ensued as everyone around him scrambled to stop him from consuming the poison, and after a few minutes, he was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.
The dramatic scenes unfolded at Sirajganj's Rabindra University during a hunger strike staged by a group of students to press home their demand that Farhana, an assistant professor of the Cultural Heritage and Bangladesh Studies Department, be permanently removed by the university.
On Saturday, Shamim announced in a livestream on Facebook that he would commit suicide at the academic building of the university if the authorities fail to make a decision about Farhana’s fate by 12 pm on Sunday.
Shamim went through with his promise in the presence of the teachers, students and journalists, as the authorities did not meet the demand, said his classmate Zahidul Islam.
Chairman of Rabindra Studies Department Laila Ferdous Himel, who headed the panel tasked with investigating the forced haircuts of 16 students in September, said she was present at the scene along with some of her colleagues.
“We thought we would stop him if he tries to bring something (harmful), but he probably had (that bottle) in his pocket. Other students there also tried to stop him,” she said.
Asked what Shamim had actually consumed, Laila said, “He probably took poison, but all I saw was that he put something in his mouth.”
“The students didn’t listen to us. They said they don’t want to listen to us as we’re not syndicate members and have no decision-making power. All we can do is console them,” she added.
“They wanted to hear something from the administrative authorities. The VC wasn't present there but the registrar was, although he did not speak. This was the situation when he (Shamim) made the attempt on his own life."
As Shamim had announced his intentions beforehand, the authorities had been ambulance in case anything went awry, according to the protesters.
Citing conversations with the teachers who accompanied Shamim to the Upazila Health Complex in Potadia, Himel said he underwent a stomach wash at the medical facility.
Following the incident, a group of students blocked BISIC intersection on the Pabna-Nagarbari Highway around 12:30 pm in protest, leading to a long trail of traffic stuck on both sides of the road. A large number of police personnel were deployed to control the situation.
Normal traffic resumed after an hour when the students returned to the campus, ending the blockade.
In a separate incident, a protester tried to slash their wrist with a blade, said Zahidul.
Teacher Laila Ferdous said she heard about the incident but was not present at the scene.
On Sept 26, Associate Professor Farhana Yeasmin Baten, chairman of the Cultural Heritage and Bangladesh Studies Department, was charged with forcibly cutting the hair of 16 students. Nazmul Hasan Tuhin, a student, tried to take his own life by consuming sleeping pills the next day.
The students burst into protest and shunned all exams and academic classes from Sept 28. Farhana stepped down from three administrative positions on the same day.
A five-strong probe panel was formed to investigate the incident. Rabindra University temporarily suspended Farhana Yeasmin Baten on Sept 30.
The students, however, continued to demand her permanent suspension. At one point they ceased their protest following an assurance by the education minister (to handle the issue.)
They resumed their protest on Saturday, when the syndicate decided not to suspend Farhana Yasmin permanently following a report submitted by the probe panel on Oct 22.