Chhatra League elated, all other student bodies dissatisfied
Dhaka University Central Students' Union (Ducsu) and hall union elections will be held on March 11 after 28 years of hiatus. The last Ducsu election was held on June 6, 1990 when General HM Ershad was president and the student body played a huge role in ousting the dictator.
Yesterday morning, Professor SM Mahfuzur Rahman of the Department of International Business, who is also serving as the chief returning officer, announced the polls on behalf of the administration at Nawab Ali Chowdhury Senate Bhaban auditorium.
The registered students will elect candidates to 25 key positions. The results will be announced the same day.
A draft voter list for the Ducsu polls was revealed yesterday on the notice boards of the respective halls and on the university website. Complaints and correction requests for the voter list can be submitted in written form to the returning officers within February 18.
On March 3, the final list of candidates contesting in the Ducsu polls will be published.
BCL elated, other student bodies disagree
The schedule for DUCSU polls drew mixed reactions from the various student organizations.
While the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the student body of Awami League, welcomed the schedule, BNP-backed student organization Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD) accompanied by leftist student bodies and the quota reformists were begrudged at the announcement.
All student bodies except the BCL requested the authorities to set up polling centers outside the dormitory and ensure non-violent atmosphere on campus before announcing the schedule.
The authorities are yet to ensure amiable environment to hold a free and fair election.
The announcement declared halls as polling centers and requested students to cast their votes in respective dorms after showing valid ID cards, which drew negative response from all student bodies except the BCL.
All student bodies save the BCL have warned the authority to go for tougher joint movements if the decision is not changed immediately.
Soon after the announcement yesterday, the Progressive Student Alliance staged a demonstration demanding the polls in terrorism and occupying-free democratic environment.
Rejecting the schedule, JCD DU unit president Al Mahdi Talukder said none of their demands were met while announcing the schedule.
“We will talk with them regarding this matter today (Tuesday). If they do not heed to our words we will go for strict movement,” he warned.
Echoing the same view, Bangladesh Chhatra Union (BSU) general Secretary Liton Nandi said they are worried over a fair election as the authority utterly refused students demands.
“We will continue our protest for meeting our demands of setting polling stations outside the hall”, he added.
Joint Convener of Bangladesh General Student’s Right Protection Forum Nurul Haq Nur called upon the authority to accept students’ demands immediately and take over the control of campus from BCL hand in order to ensure fair election.
He said, they will express their solidarity with any students’ bodies to wage movement on varsity campus in this regard.
On the other hand, the BCL brought out a rally in the campus welcoming the announcement.
BCL DU unit General Secretary Saddam Hussein said they welcomed the announcement and would like to cast their vote for their preferred candidates.
Who can vote, become candidates?
The Dhaka University (DU) has set maximum 30 years as the age limit for candidates.
Current students of honours, masters and MPhil — both residential and non-residential students admitted to the university through first year honours entry test — and not over 30 years of age at the time of the election schedule announcement will be able to vote and contest the polls.
Anyone holding government or private jobs will be considered ineligible to be a voter. However, they can contest the elections.
The syndicate body has also barred students of evening programs, PhD programs, and affiliated colleges from participating in the election.
Code of Conduct
The code of conduct says posters, leaflets, and handbills should be printed in black and white. Campaigning hours are set for 10am to 12am. CCTV cameras will be installed according to demand, electricity supply, and mobile network.
Authorities have prohibited wall graffiti and banned posters on standing things, foundations or structure (e.g. walls, trees). Permission for campaign needs to be taken 24 hours in advance.
Ducsu was formed a year after Dhaka University was established in 1921. Dhaka University's student leaders were at the forefront of the Language Movement and the Independence Movement. Though Ducsu elections are to be held every year, there have only been six since the independence. Ducsu polls did not take place over 28 years because of the indifference of successive university administrations and governments, reportedly in order to maintain their dominance on the campus.
University authorities time and again reneged on their promises to hold the election after Ducsu was formally dissolved on May 28, 1998.
The last functional student body was elected in 1990 under a dictatorial regime. Since the reintroduction of democracy, not a single successive elected government has taken the initiative to hold the Ducsu election for 28 years, until now.