Press releases issued by the university are routinely describing cause of each death as ‘brief illness’
Shaheen Nazar | Clarion India
NEW DELHI — The Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) is currently reeling under the second wave of Covid-19 virus. According to a report in the Times of India, during the last 20 days, 16 serving and 10 retired faculty members of the university have succumbed to the virus.
If Times tally as of Friday, May 7, is to be believed, AMU reported 17th casualty on Saturday. Law Faculty Dean Shakeel Samdani died of Covid after remaining hospitalised for several days at AMU’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital (JNMCH).
Vice Chancellor Tariq Mansoor described Prof. Samdani’s death as his “personal loss”. A press release issued by AMU quotes the vice chancellor as saying: “I am at loss of words to express my grief after knowing about Prof Shakeel Samdani’s sudden demise. He was a passionate and dedicated teacher and a fine human being apart from being a reputed academician. I pray to the almighty to grant peace to the departed soul and pray for courage to his family members”.
Strangely, the press release does not mention the cause of his death. It simply says, Prof. Samdani “passed away after a brief illness. He was 60-years-old.” That Prof Samdani was sick, that he has been found to be coronavirus positive, that his health was deteriorating by the day were well-known facts and subject of discussion in AMU circles. But when he died the university chose not to acknowledge the cause of his death and just reported death owing to “brief illness”.
This is not an isolated reporting. It appears to be a policy decision of the university authorities not to register deaths under Covid-19. Press releases on the recent deaths of its faculty members follow the same pattern.
An alumnus of AMU, Arif Jwadder, has taken note of this and sent a letter to the Public Relations Officer of AMU. “When you don’t mention Covid deaths as Covid death and instead mention ‘brief illness’, you are just killing others. Why would people take Covid-19 seriously when there is no death due to it,” Arif wrote on his Facebook wall on Saturday and published the letter that he earlier wrote to the PRO.
The letter reads: “As you are very much aware that many university teachers and employees have succumbed to the deadly Covid-19 virus recently and this is a very hard time for each one of us. But unfortunately it has been seen that every press release issued from your office condoling the death doesn’t mention the reason of death as Covid-19, instead it states that ‘due to brief illness’ the person died.
“This is a great disservice which you are doing and it will always haunt you for hiding the facts!”
Arif also filed an RTI on Saturday seeking to know from the university authorities total number of patients who got admission with Covid-19 symptoms since April 1 till date; total number of patients who got discharged after recovery from Covid-19 since April 1 till date; details of positivity rate of RT-PCR test being done at JNMCH; details of mortality rate; total number of university teachers and staff who succumbed to death had taken first or second shots of the vaccine; and, most importantly, whether or not JNMCH conducting Genome Sequencing of the Covid-19 virus to find out whether or not there is any new strain.
Arif also refers to a message that India’s top virologist Shahid Jameel has reportedly sent to AMU’s Community Medicine Department expressing concern over the unusual number of people in AMU developing serious diseases and even dying. “As an epidemiologist what do you make of it? Is this not unusual? Has there been any attempt to look at: viral variants circulating in AMU areas; and any other epidemiological links,” the message purportedly sent by Shahid Jameel reads.
Meanwhile, the Times of India reports that as many as 16 employees, including faculty members, are currently undergoing treatment in the Covid ward of the JNMCH.
Vice-chancellor Mansoor’s elder brother, 75-year-old Omar Farooq, died on Friday. He was a former member of AMU Court. Cause of his death was described as “brief illness”. Also on Friday, Prof Shadab Ahmad Khan (58), Chairman the Department of Medicine, and Prof Rafiqul Zaman Khan (55) of the Department of Computer Sciences succumbed to Covid-19.
On May 5, renowned Sanskrit scholar and former chairman of the Department of Sanskrit, Prof Khalid Bin Yusuf (56), passed away. He was the first Muslim scholar to earn a doctorate in Rigveda.
Other serving faculty members who succumbed to Covid-19 earlier this month were Prof Ghufran Ahmad (54), chairman of the Department of Ilmul Advia; Prof Sajid Ali Khan (63), chairman of the Department of Psychology; Dr Mohammad Irfan (62), chairman of the Department of Museology; Prof Mohd Ali Khan (60), of the Department of Post Harvest Engineering; Prof Qazi Mohd Jamshed (55) of the Department of Political Science; Dr Aziz Faisal (40) of the Centre for Women’s Studies; Dr Jibraeil (51) of the Department of History; Dr Mohammad Yusuf Ansari (46) of the Department of English; Dr Mohd Furqan Sambhali (43) of the Department of Urdu; and Prof Syed Irfan Ahmad (62) of the Department of Zoology.
Those who died of Covid-related complications last month include noted critic and senior faculty member at the Department of Urdu, Prof Maula Bakhsh Ansari (58); faculty member of the Faculty of Theology, Prof Ehsanullah Fahad (50); and in charge of Leather and Footwear Technology section at University Polytechnic AMU, Saeed Uzzaman (51).