Mounting political turmoil on the public university campuses of the country so far in 2018 has resulted in several clashes among student political organisations and disruption to the academic timetable.
The unrest among student groups is being attributed to the upcoming 11th parliamentary elections, Khaleda Zia’s verdict in Zia Orphanage Trust graft case, an out-of-control Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), and the absence of student body elections.
On Monday, the ruling Awami League-backed BCL launched attacks on the leaders and activists of the “Progressive Students’ Alliance” at Chittagong University (CU), Rajshahi University (RU), and Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) during a nationwide strikes called by the alliance.
Nagarik Oikya Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna said he was “shocked” to hear about the attack. “In the universities, power politics is going on and it seems that BCL will not allow anyone to do anything on the campuses,” he said.
Former DU Central Students’ Union (DUCSU) Vice President Manna told the Dhaka Tribune that two forces were driving the ruling party’s student.
“As this is the year of election and a verdict of a case against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia will be declared, the BCL may be determined not to lose its control in the university campuses at any cost,” he said.
Other sources said that with most leaders of the BNP-backed Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD) remaining off campuses, the left-leaning students’ organisations have become the Chhatra League’s main target.
Umme Habiba Benojir, president of DU unit Bangladesh Chhatra Federation, said the Chhatra League leaders have vowed to not let any left-leaning organisations mobilise in the university.
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“Though we are carrying out the movement for a logical demand, the BCL cadres have launched a brutal attack on us,” Benojir said. “They have threatened to beat up those who would go against the Chhatra League.”
On Monday, at least 16 students under the progressive alliance were injured during the BCL attacks across the country after the alliance called a strike demanding the punishment of BCL men who attacked protesters in front of the office of the Dhaka University Vice Chancellor last week.
However, the BCL leaders and activists claimed that the left-leaning students’ organisations in liaison with JCD and Jamaat-e Islami backed Islami Chhatra Shibir were trying to destabilise the public university campuses ahead of national elections.
“The ongoing unrest has sparked at DU and we have learned that some left-leaning leaders have met JCD leaders to create chaos in the public universities ahead of elections,” Mahmudur Rahman Jony, vice president of BCL central committee, said.
“However, the BCL is fully aware of such developments and will stave off any kind of ill-intention to destabilise the campuses.”
DU Chhatra Federation President Benojir, however, dismissed the allegation, saying: “Whenever we protest and demand justice, the BCL leaders allege of creating unrest in the university.”
DU unit JCD Joint Secretary Saif Mahmud Jewel said that there had been a political vacuum in university level student politics as the Chhatra League leaders were not allowing any dissenting students’ organisation on the campus.
“The BCL leaders have forgotten their dignity and values as student leaders in order to serve the ruling party’s purpose which is why they have been launching attacks on their fellow students,” he said.
Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Chowdhury said that mainstream students are being denied the opportunity to express their views due to the supremacy of the ruling party’s student wings.
“As the central students’ unions were absent almost for three decades, the ruling party’s students wings have taken the opportunity and establish their supremacy during different governments’ tenures,” he said.
Prof Serajul said the students’ unions must be restored and cultural activities should be expanded on the campuses.