Teacher Utpal was the bedrock of his family. His murder leaves them staring into an abyss

It wasn't all that long ago that Utpal Kumar Sarker was home with his loved ones in Sirajganj. A pillar of strength and hope for his family, Utpal was a lecturer of political science at a college in Savar's Ashulia.

Israil Hossain Babu, Sirajganj Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 2 July 2022, 03:16 PM
Updated : 2 July 2022, 03:35 PM

As he was saying his goodbyes before returning to work, he assured his mother that he'd be back soon. But that was the last time he'd be home. On Jun 25, Utpal was attacked by one of his own students at Haji Yunus Ali School and College. Two days later, he died, plunging his family into deep despair. 

In many ways, the place where Utpal grew up typified how far he'd come in life. Lying on the edge of Chalan Beel, a large wetland, the village of Duttapara Elangjani is at least 30 km away from Sirajganj town. There are no roads leading in or out during the monsoon, when the village can only be accessed by boat.

But on this day, Utpal's home wasn't hard to find as the piercing wails of his grieving mother echoed on the horizon. "Where has my son gone? Bring him back to me," an inconsolable Gita Rani Sarker said as she gazed down at a photograph of her son.

Utpal's sister-in-law Iti Rani Sarker was fighting back her tears as she stood over the grief-stricken mother.

"My mother-in-law sometimes forgets that her youngest son is no more. But then it all comes rushing back," she said.

The words of Iti seemed to help Gita compose herself. "My son was very intelligent. Everyone in the house loved him. Before leaving home a few days ago, he said, 'Mother, please stay with my brothers. I'll be back.' But he hasn't come back."

Iti had raised Utpal, the youngest of eight siblings, like her own son. Utpal always remembered that. He made sure his nephew Abhishek Sarker studied hard and it paid off as he is now a student at Chattogram University.

Iti shed tears as she shared some of her memories of Utpal. "The head of our family is gone. Utpal used to get along well with everyone in the family. Although he was the youngest, he was like the bedrock of this family. My son Abhishek is now in his first year of university. I don't know what the future holds for him now that his uncle is gone. We've lost everything."

Born in 1987, Utpal studied at Dattapara Elangjani Government Primary School until the fourth grade. His elder brother Ashim Kumar Sarker then took him to Natore.

There, he was admitted to Dayrampur Cantonment School and College. Ashim used to work at a tailor's shop to pay for his youngest brother's education. Utpal studied there until the eighth grade.

He later returned home and continued his schooling at Lahirimohanpur KM High School.

As the road to the village remains submerged during the monsoon but emerges when the rains dry up, vans and motorcycles can now travel all the way up to the house, according to Ashim.

"We had to walk all the time during our childhood. My younger brother would also walk to school. "

After finishing school, new avenues opened up for Utpal. He completed his HSC from Ullapara Akbar Ali College in the Upazila Sadar. After college, he got into Chattogram University and graduated with honours before achieving a master's in 2011.

While pursuing higher education, Utpal used to offer private tuition to make ends meet. He would later take up a teaching role at Haji Yunus Ali School and College in 2013.

Utpal, 37, worked at the college for 10 years as a lecturer of political science. He was also the chairman of the college's disciplinary committee.

In the course of his work, he would often have to discipline unruly students. This ultimately proved to be his undoing as one of those students, Ashraful Islam Jitu, cut his life short after hitting him with a cricket stump.

Although the youngest among his siblings, Utpal, by dint of his education, became the family's 'guardian', according to Asit Kumar Sarker, the third of Utpal's five brothers.

"After Utpal took the job at the college, he took me and our brother Ashim with him to Ashulia. He set up a tailor shop for me called Dipta Tailors at the market next to his college. Our brother works in another tailor shop nearby. We used to live side by side.

"I saw my younger brother at the college on the morning of the incident. And in the afternoon I found out that he had been beaten. We all relied on my younger brother. But he's dead now. I heard the killer's [family is] influential. How can we do business in that area now? Who will protect us?"

After the attack, Ashim started a case with the police. "My younger brother was killed in a premeditated manner as the power supply and CCTV cameras at the school were turned off during the incident," he said.

"As the family of the accused is influential, I am worried about the handling of the case in that area. I don't know what to do now. I hope the government will give us security. "

Utpal had also found work for his eldest brother Ajay Kumar Sarker and fourth brother Ashutosh Sarker at textile mills in Dhaka.

"After the death of my father in 2003, we sold our land and married off our three sisters. I helped raise my younger brother. After he got a job, he also provided us with work. Utpal was the head of the family. He maintained everything. None of us would do anything without consulting him.

"But he has been killed now. We have become orphans. None of us would do anything without listening to him. But they killed that brother. We have become orphans. Who will bring us hope? What will happen to his wife now?"

Utpal got married to Beauty Rani Nandi three years ago. The couple does not have any children. Beauty, who works in Dhaka, also came to Dattapara Elangjani for her husband's last rites.

Thirty Hindu families live alongside Muslims in the village. One of Utpal's neighbours, Asiya Khatun, was deeply saddened by his passing. "Utpal was such a good person and they've killed him."

One of Utpal's cousins, Sourendranath Sarker, also a teacher by profession, is worried about the future of his family. "The family will be finished if no one stands by them," he said.

Sourendranath demanded punishment for Utpal's killer as well as financial assistance from the government to help his family.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher