Twenty-year-old Thasni Basheer breathed her last on Thursday night at the KIMS hospital in Thiruvananthapuram.
She succumbed to injuries suffered when a mustard colored jeep driven by her college mates rammed into her the previous day, damaging her brain beyond repair.
The pictures and videos of the students piled on the ‘killer’ Mahindra jeep KBF 7268 has triggered many debates on whether freedom should be absolute in campuses.
The College of Engineering in Thriuvananthapuram, where the girl was mowed down, is known for its academic excellence. But it also has its share of violent student politics and it seems the jeep had a role to play in most altercations on campus.
A picture from the jeep's FB page
Registered in the name of a man from Muvattupuzha, the jeep was bought by CET students a few years ago. It has been maintained by hostel students for years, each batch tinkering and making modifications to the body of vehicle.
Last modified three years ago by a local mechanic, it now has an axe, shovel, a hook attached to the sides – and a reasonable following on Facebook.
The vehicle before modification
The MH Jeep Facebook page has over 4,500 likes. Photographs show the jeep almost as a vehicle of nostalgia – young men posing in an open jeep against the backdrop of a river behind which is a hill with coconut palms, three triumphant youth starting into the camera as they drive the jeep through a stream, two jeeps parked facing each other in a clearing of winter-dried wild grass.
But a Malayala Manorama report paints a grim picture of the jeep’s history. The jeep was maintained by the Students Federation of India (SFI) in the men’s hostel. Members of the student body, which is affiliated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist), allegedly used the jeep to ferry reinforcements to CET – “weapons” and students from other colleges – when there were clashes on campus.
Around three months ago, police reportedly seized the jeep for rash driving and later returned the vehicle to the students.
The Times of India quotes a teacher as saying that SFI members also used the jeep to roam around the campus and allegedly threaten other students.
In 2002, vehicles were banned on the CET campus after a student lost her life in a freak accident.
Last Wednesday, Baiju (the main accused) and his friends disregarded that ban as they went around the college in their jeep. Thasni had to pay the price.