Students who have protested against quota system will someday regret that it was scrapped, speakers say at the Bangla Tribune’s latest Boithoki roundtable held in its Dhaka office on April 12. The program titled ‘Quota system is scrapped, what now?’ was moderated by Munni Saha and was telecast live on ATN News. The program will also be available on the YouTube channel and Facebook page of Bangla Tribune
‘Students demanded reforms to quota system, not scrapping it’
Former secretary Mofazzal Karim said: “I have noticed that their (the students) demand was reform to quota system, not scrapping it. I think the demand was very natural and rational. The government should have thought more and made assessment on quota system. That is why students took to the streets.
“Attack on VC’s residence is outrageous. Those who attacked the VC’s residence were not students. It [the attack] was very organized. CCTV cameras were damaged and many other things were vandalized. There might be some conspiracies behind it. I believe the perpetrators were outsiders.
“The girl [Iffat Jahan Isha, expelled Bangladesh Chhatra League president of Dhaka University’s Kabi Sufia Kamal Hall unit] who tortured other students for joining the protest was not asked to act like police. She is not supposed to see who joined the protest or who did not. Why did she assault the female students? Being enraged other students made her [the expelled Chhatra League leader] wear a garland of shoes. None of the acts was justified.
“That the student [Chhatra League leader] was expelled from the university promptly was not a right thing either. There is a procedure to expel somebody.
“After independence, Bangabandhu felt the need for introducing quota system. The government planned to bring the unprivileged group to the mainstream by introducing quota system. There was a plan to review district quota a decade ago. But no initiative was taken later due to their [government bodies] indifference.”
Mofazzal said: “Police did not take any initiative to thwart the attack on the VC’s residence. There should be an investigation over police inaction. Why did police attack the peaceful movement [of students]? It is natural that if police launch any attack it will fuel the anger of the protesters.
“I think officials of the related ministries should have explained the matter [quota system] to the top level of the government. The prime minister was not given a clear idea either before she spoke about the matter.”
‘This has created a path to split history’
Freedom fighter and cultural personality Nasiruddin Yusuf Bachchu said: “I endorsed the protest that started several years ago. I think quota system should be reformed.
“I think it was the demand of common students. But we noticed some changes in the last 48 hours of the movement. It seemed the movement took a reverse turn, somebody instigated it. We have suspect that somebody instigated the attack on the residence of Dhaka University VC. Rumours in Facebook have played a vital role in the attack.”
He said: “Disgruntled students might have vandalized the VC’s residence. But what does the VC have to do with quota reforms? We fought for the country, we have no demand, and our children will get jobs based on their merits. There is no problem with it.
“Many women have got jobs in numerous sectors including in primary schools thanks to quota system. But in the movement I noticed banners saying that there is no need for quota for women. How is it considered fair?”
Bachchu said: “A new shift has been created through the scrapping of quota system. There was freedom fighter quota previously, but it does not exist now. These students [protesters] will have to take responsibility of the freedom fighters’ families. Otherwise, history will not forgive them. This has created a path to split history.”
‘The movement was made controversial’
Blogger and online activist Arif Jebtik said: “Movements like quota reforms cannot be organized under any political party. So various rumours spread over the protest and thus it is made controversial. A rumour spread that a female student’s tendon was severed at Kabi Sufia Kamal Hall of Dhaka University but from the picture on Facebook it did not seem that the tendon was severed. The Facebook page of a student wing of a political party was also very active. Both the fact and rumour were active in Facebook.
“Some people have believed the news of severing tendon of a female student, some did not. I did not believe it. I saw in the video that two male police officials were present on the spot when Isha (the Chhatra League leader who allegedly tortured female students) was humiliated. The officials were present there to ensure no fresh violence erupts. If they were not there the situation might have worsened. But many might have thought that the Chhatra League leader was humiliated in front of the men.”
Arif said: “These protesters are brilliant students who will lead the country in the future. They should not make bad comments about others in placards. They could have placed their demands in the placards, instead they wrote derogatory terms. What kind of meritorious students are they?
“[Agriculture Minister] Matia Chowdhury’s statement was misquoted. I saw some protesters wearing T-shirts written ‘I am razakar.’”
‘The movement was robbed’
Rasheda Rawnak Khan, lecturer of anthropology department at Dhaka University, said: “We are aware of the politics in mass media and currently we are in a critical political state. But the politics is no longer in the media; it has gone to social media.
“About 80% Facebook users around the world are followers who do not give any opinion. Some 15% of 20% users express their opinions but they are in a state between active and inactive modes. Only 5% are active and 95% users follow their activities.
“Some of the 15% users who are between active and inactive states verify the authenticity of an incident. Of them there are some users who dismiss anything immediately.”
She said: “A rumour spread in Facebook that a female student severed tendons of the legs of a fellow student and then other students made the alleged assailant wear a garland of shoes. These cannot be justified.
“Anybody can make a mistake but that does not mean that the others will have to do the exact thing to take the revenge. Violence against violence is unacceptable. The basic thing is the movement was robbed. It was diverted.”
Rasheda further said: “Through this movement we have again realized that youngsters are awake. They can still take to the streets and bring changes. But their movement was for personal interest. If they are asked to protest against rape they will not.
“I saw a placard written ‘my father is a freedom fighter, he married an indigenous woman, and their child is physically challenged, so now handle the quota’. How can these meritorious students speak such derogatory words about special children or ethnic minorities who do not get equal opportunities like we do?
“They demanded reforms to quota system, not scrapping of it. But if quota system is scrapped I am sure they will regret the decision after 20 years.
‘Female protesters will regret this’
Bangla Tribune Deputy News Editor Fatema Abedin Nazla said: “On February 17, students took to the streets demanding quota reforms by forming a human chain. They did not realize that the movement would reach such a big stage. Students across the country took to the streets. They did not have any organizational thinking and leadership either. They demanded for bringing down quota to 10% from 56%.
“Many including university teachers did not support them initially. But when the movement became strong people started to endorse them. They continued their peaceful movement for two months.
“They clashed with law enforcers in Shahbagh. Then the incident like attack on VC’s residence also took place. The prime minister spoke about quota reforms and accepted the protesters’ demand. We congratulate them [the protesters].
“But we saw placards in the hands of female protesters written they did not want female quota. When they see there is no woman in administration, teaching, and other fields, they will regret this.”