However, members of the unit have denied the allegations
Allegations of strong arm extortion have been made against members of Rajshahi University (RU) Chhatra League unit for stopping the construction of Sheikh Russel Model School on the university grounds when they were not offered bribes. Two leaders of the university Chhatra League unit went to the construction site of the school on the Southwest side of the university’s Zubery field and halted the construction at 2:30pm on Sunday. The men allegedly abducted Ashraful Islam, manager of the under construction building.
However, members of the unit have denied the allegations.
Among the two accused is Suranjit Prasad Britto, vice-president, RU Chhatra League unit and the other person is yet to be identified.
University sources said the construction of the four storied school began on July 30 this year. The building is being built by M/s Shikder Construction and Builders at the expense of Tk 10.59cr.
The supervisor of the construction, Momtaz Uddin Don said: “Members of the university’s Chhatra League unit appeared on the first day of construction, asking under whose authority the construction had begun and suggested we meet their president and general secretary to discuss the matter.”
On August 10, Don met the university’s Chhatra League unit president Golam Kibria, and general secretary Foysal Ahmed Runu, where they demanded Tk30 lakh in extortion money and threatened to stop the construction process. In the following days, the president and general secretary reportedly telephoned Don asking for the money. Furthermore, the two sent members of the unit to pressure him into “settling” the issue.
Don alleged: “On Sunday at 2pm, vice-president Britto and another leader came to the construction site looking for manager Ashraful Islam. Since he was not there, they misbehaved with another manager, Abu Bakar and compelled him to provide them with Ashraful’s number.”
“Later at 2:30pm, they came and abducted Ashraful and released him after 30 minutes,” he added.
Ashraful Islam described his ordeal saying: “They took him behind the Dean’s complex on a bike and threatened him to stop construction until Don ‘settles’ the issue of money with the unit’s president Kibria and general secretary Runu.”
Don claims that he had informed chief engineer Abul Kalam Azad, pro vice-chancellor Chowdhury Md Zakaria, and the honourable mayor, multiple times in the past about the BCL men asking for money.
He said: “The workers are scared to continue work after Ashraful was abducted by the BCL men. I have previously informed the pro VC and have informed the VC through the chief engineer. I will notify them officially today (Sunday) and if they fail to take action, we will take legal action against the accused.”
When this correspondent visited the site at 3:30pm, workers were sitting at a nearby field since they were scared to continue.
Sabuj, a construction worker, said: “We were working since morning but in the afternoon, two men came and asked the manager to stop construction and later abducted another manager. We are not working since we do not feel safe to continue.”
Vice-president Britto denied the allegations saying: “I did not go to the school’s site. These are baseless and false allegations.”
President Kibria and general secretary Runu also denied asking for extortion money. “We have never asked for extortion money from anyone,” they claimed.
Regarding the abduction, they added: “We are not aware about today’s (Sunday) incident. However, we will take action against anyone who is found misusing BCL’s name.”
When asked about the incident, chief engineer Abul Kalam Azad said: “I have informed the relevant authorities after hearing about today’s (Sunday) incident.”
RU pro vice-chancellor Chowdhury Md Zakaria, and vice-chancellor Prof Abdus Sobhan, did not answer their phones when called for comment on the incident.
When contacted for a statement, BCL central committee’s acting president Al-Nahean Khan Joy, and acting general secretary Lekhak Bhattacharjee, could not be reached on their phones.