Most Buet students have to go through this horrific experience
Newcomers to Buet dormitory halls have to wait stressed out every evening,not knowing when it is their turn to visit their seniors’ rooms for ragging as an introduction. The ‘visits’ often turn dreadful, sometimes ending in injuries and trauma.
“Normally they call us after 11pm for ragging. The torture sessions sometimes even continue for the whole night,” said a first year Sher-e-Bangla Hall student of Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology (Buet).
Last July one night, some 15 newcomers were waiting for their ragging calls, which finally came after 1am. They went to the common room where senior students were waiting for them. The primary session of the ragging included scolding and thrashing.
“Then they chose 11 of us for more rigorous and advanced ragging. They took us to the rooftop, and beat us with wicket stumps and sticks all night long," said an 18th batch student who was in room 32. Humiliated, he decided to go back to his village home forever, but his parents asked him to continue his studies.
Many have never revealed the nights of horror to anybody, fearing a backlash. Although some victims have informed the authorities, there was hardly any action taken.
Abrar Fahad’s death in torture opened a window for current and former students to speak up about what they have gone through year after year, not only in ‘guest rooms’ but other specific rooms of Chhatra League leaders in almost all the dormitories on campus.
Victims say bullying, verbal abuse, and physical torture are very common in all Buet dormitories and that the university authorities do not take any action against seniors despite repeated complaints, forcing victims to keep mum.
Many keep silent about torture
Many have kept secret, the ragging and torture part of their Buet life, even after graduation and entering professional life.
Soon after Abrar’s death, the issue became the talk of the country as victims have unmasked the reign of terror that Chhatra League men have established on campus.
Abrar, a second-year Electrical and Electronic Engineering department student of Buet, was beaten to death on Monday at Buet's Sher-e-Bangla hall sparking protests all around. He was branded a ‘Shibir activist’, a common practice in accusing a student.
Several students said they faced their first trial of ragging in their first year within a few days of stepping on campus.
“Usually, the immediate senior batch engaged in students politics of the party in power, carry out the torture. They want to spread fear and make us a bunch of tight-zipped juniors,” said a first year student who had a terrifying experience in July this year.
This Ahsanullah Hall student temporarily lost his hearing in one ear due to the torture. He was called to the common room where others beat him up for his long hair and wearing shorts or half-pants. They slapped him so hard his eardrum was perforated with blood clotting inside.
The student lodged a complaint with the hall provost and director of student welfare (DSW). A probe committee was formed and recommendations were forwarded to the disciplinary committee and it suspended six students from the hall and recommended tougher punishment for two.
But they did not leave the hall and continued the torture on others. Students say teachers too do not want to engage in any conflict with the student leaders.
Authorities cannot avoid responsibility
The situation of political impunity did not come about overnight, say students.
Repeatedly they wanted action from the authorities, but did not get an appropriate response. Even after the death of Abrar, Buet Vice Chancellor Saiful Islam faced students after 40 hours despite their demonstrations demanding explanations.
Indeed, the VC only went to see the victim’s family once after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina herself said that the VC should have acted promptly.
The Teachers' Association of the university has also demanded the VC's resignation and has asked the government to force him to resign, if he does not willingly do so.
The general secretary of the organization, Prof Dr Md Mustafa Ali, yesterday said: "The VC's negligent attitude towards violence on students, and his failure to take any action to ensure student safety on campus, only encourages those who killed Abrar."
"All this proves the VC has lost moral values," he said in a statement.
The VC says he would not step down. "I did not do anything wrong. So, why should I resign?" he said, after offering prayers at the grave of Abrar Fahad in Kumarkhali, Kushtia, on Wednesday afternoon.
Chhatra League blames VC
Surprisingly, Chhatra League itself is pointing fingers at the administration and the VC for failing to save Abrar. Its acting general secretary, Lekhak Bhattacharjee, rejected allegations that the organisation has torture cells where students were harassed.
The probe committee which was formed by the Chhatra League itself blamed the administration's 'irresponsibility and aloofness' for Abar's death.
It said that Abrar was beaten up by some unruly Chhatra League men for hours, but the authorities did not know it to be unusual or out of the ordinary.
The ‘helpless’ attitude of the authorities, was exposed when a member of the teachers’ association told a gathering of agitating students on Wednesday that they [teachers] cannot do anything against Chhatra League.