'He Feared Exams...': Arunachal Student's Suicide Sparks Protests at NIT Silchar

According to Koj Buker's friends, he wasn't able to clear his first-year exams due to internet issues.

5 min read

(If you feel suicidal or know someone in distress, please reach out to them with kindness and call these numbers of local emergency services, helplines, and mental health NGOs.)

"Koj [Buker] comes from a remote area in Arunachal Pradesh. When we spoke about his backlogs, he told me that due to poor internet services in his hometown, he was not able to study and clear his exam papers in the first year," Susmit Gupta, a third-year Mechanical Engineering student at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Assam's Silchar, told The Quint.

Susmit happened to be Koj Buker's neighbour, staying in room 7069, right next to 7070, at hostel number 7 of the institute, where the 20-year-old student allegedly died by suicide on Friday, 15 September. Susmit, however, was not present in his room when the incident allegedly happened.

Koj took admission in Electrical Engineering at the premier institute in 2021 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of his first-year classes, including his first-semester examinations, were conducted online.

Following Koj's death, NIT Silchar has been in a state of turmoil with students protesting for days on end, alleging that Koj, who was a BTech third-year student, was under "tremendous pressure" after he wasn't allowed to register for the 5th semester due to exam backlogs from previous semesters.

According to Koj Buker's friends, he wasn't able to clear his first-year exams due to internet issues.

Since 15 September, after the death of Koj Buker, students of NIT Silchar have been protesting, demanding a fair and independent investigation into the case.

(Image accessed by The Quint)


'He Should Have Been Given Another Chance'

As per NIT Silchar's policy, a student cannot register for the 5th semester unless they have cleared the backlogs from previous semesters.

According to Registrar KL Baishnab, Koj had a backlog of 14 papers – seven from the first semester, two from the third semester, and five from the fourth semester. As a result, he was asked to attend classes with first-year students.

"Koj reached out to the Dean of Academics, Binoy Krishna Roy, several times, requesting his registration for the 5th semester, but he never got the permission," Rishikant, a fourth-year Electronics and Communication Engineering student, told The Quint.

In response to the allegations, the registrar, however, said that his office hadn't received any formal request from Koj – and that he would need to check again for verification.

Another professor at NIT Silchar, who refused to be named, told The Quint:

"There are many students who have backlogs at the institute. We have tried helping them in whatever capacity possible."

The Quint reached out to Professor Roy for more information on the case, to which he said, "Since the investigation is underway, I am not allowed to speak to the media."

'He Started To Fear Exams...'

Amit Kumar, a BTech third-year Mechanical Engineering student, who hails from Uttarakhand, shared a room with Koj from September 2022 to May 2023 before shifting to the nearby hostel number 6.

Amit and Koj were friends since their first-year days – and used to play football together. Recalling his last football match, Amit said, "Koj scored a goal for his team while playing centre-forward in the match. His team even won the match because of his goal."
According to Koj Buker's friends, he wasn't able to clear his first-year exams due to internet issues.

Koj Buker, wearing blue Man City jersey, with his football team.

(Image accessed by The Quint)

As per Amit, Koj was an introvert, and did not talk much. But by the end of the fourth semester, Amit felt that all was not well with his friend.

"At the end of the fourth semester, I noticed that he started to fear exams. Because of the backlog, he had more subjects to study than usual. We had a conversation about whether he wanted to drop out of the institute or take more time to complete his degree. He told me that he wanted to obtain the degree even if it took longer than the usual course time."
Amit Kumar, Student, NIT Silchar

Apart from football, Koj was a good singer, too. He could sing and play the guitar brilliantly, Amit recalled.


Students Protest Continues

Demanding the removal of the dean, NIT Silchar students have been sitting on a hunger strike on the campus since 17 September. Students allege that if the dean had been considerate of Koj's issues, he wouldn't have taken the step.

Protesting students have also written to President Droupadi Murmu, seeking her help to resolve the escalating crisis at the institute.

According to Koj Buker's friends, he wasn't able to clear his first-year exams due to internet issues.

Students of NIT Silchar sitting in the protest.

(Image accessed by The Quint)

"We are demanding Professor Binoy Krishna Roy's resignation and urging the college administration to register an FIR to ensure a thorough investigation into the reasons behind Koj's death. The college administration should also ensure that Koj's family receives financial, legal, and emotional support, as well as security," Rishikant told The Quint.

Speaking to The Quint, Registrar Baishnab said, "We are in conversation with students and trying to work out on the demands of the students. For now, professor Roy has been replaced by Dr Lalit Kumar Saikia and an interim dean of academics."

According to Koj Buker's friends, he wasn't able to clear his first-year exams due to internet issues.

Apart from being a student of Electrical Engineering, Koj Buker was a great footballer and a musician. 

(Image accessed by The Quint)

Meanwhile, two FIRs have been registered by the Cachar Police against students for alleged vandalism that occurred on the campus on 15 September. Students are also demanding that the college should ensure that no disciplinary action is taken against them.

Koj Buker's death has also brought the issue of the students' mental health in the spotlight at NIT Silchar.

When asked if the institute has taken steps to ensure the mental well-being of students, Baishnab said, "We understand that getting admitted to NIT is difficult because of the competition, but once a student is here on the campus, we make sure that there are enough opportunities for them to take part in extra-curricular activities."

While the registrar told The Quint that they have counsellors on the campus for the students, students who spoke to The Quint disagreed, saying that the claim is a "blatant lie."

Meanwhile, the institute has formed an internal committee to investigate Koj's case even as students demand that an external body should carry out the probe.

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