'A few teachers have already expressed solidarity with our movement, and some are staying with us in the field, but still we need more support from the teachers'
Having repeatedly faced attacks by members of Bangladesh Chhatra League, quota reform activists have sought the support of teachers in order to bolster their demands to abolish the quota system for government job recruitment.
The agitating students said three months had passed since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s announcement, in parliament, that the quota system would be abolished; yet there has been no sign that the decision will be implemented.
Since the launch of the second phase of the movement at Dhaka University (DU) last week, protesting students have come under several attacks by Chhatra League muscle men—leaving the students scared and feeling insecure on campus.
“We are waging the movement with a valid reason and we seek the support of our teachers to press home our demands,” said Hasan Al Mamum, convener of Bangladesh General Students’ Right Council, a platform of the protesting students and jobseekers.
“A few teachers have already expressed solidarity with our movement, and some are staying with us in the field, but still we need more support from the teachers,” he added.
The quota reform movement leader further said members of Chhatra League continue to attack and threaten protesting students, and have created an environment of fear across the country.
DU unit Student Federation President Umme Habiba Benazir said the protesting students do not feel secure, as Chhatra League leaders and activists are pressuring them on campus.
“Chhatra League men have been threatening the protesters by saying ‘we see you, we have taken pictures of those who are participating in the quota reform movement’,” she told the Dhaka Tribune.
“Some teachers of DU are supporting our movement, but we are yet to get teachers of other universities to stand beside us. We want more support from teachers of Jahangirnagar University, Rajshahi University, Chittagong University, and others,” she said.
Meanwhile, 14 teachers from Rajshahi University have expressed worry over the recent attacks on, and arrests of, protesting students.
Under the banner “Teachers Against Repression,” teachers expressed their worries at a press conference at Rabindrakala Bhaban on Thursday, RU sources said.
At the program, RU mass communication and journalism department Chairman Al Mamum said: “We have become worried about the existing situation of the quota reform movement. We think the security situation is degrading and the right to free speech of teachers and students has been infringed.”
When contacted, DU Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Chowdhury said the students were carrying out a legitimate movement and no teacher can remain silent while their students are being attacked and arrested.
“The whole nation is aware of the recent developments regarding the movement, but teachers seem to be unaware of it. This cannot be happen. The protestors have the right to hold a movement, but they are being beaten up while the authorities keep silent,” Prof Serajul added.
“Although everyone knows who is attacking whom, the DU authorities know nothing. The newspapers and media have already exposed the identities of the attackers, but no action is yet to be taken. The attacks are taking place in broad daylight, but police are doing nothing,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
“The guardians of the assaulted students, and concerned citizens, protested—and even they were assaulted and detained. This is not reasonable,” he further said.
However, Chhatra League has denied its involvement in the attacks on, and threats against, protesting students.
“Chhatra League leaders and activists are not involved in any clashes with quota reformists. The attacks are taking place following internal conflict between the leaders of the movement,” said SM Jakir Hossain, general secretary of the recently dissolved Chhatra League central committee.