JU vice-chancellor, JU Chhatra League, and the central Chhatra League leaders have all made contradictory statements
Vice-Chancellor (VC) of Jahangirnagar University Prof Farzana Islam has accused central Chhatra League President Rezwanul Haque Chowdhury Shovon and General Secretary Golam Rabbani of demanding a "4-6%" cut from the Tk1,445cr development project at the university.
However, the two top Chhatra League leaders have countered the allegations by saying that Prof Farzana and her family had given Tk1.6cr to the Jahangirnagar University Chhatra League, so they did not get in the way of the development project.
The two contradictory statements from the two sides have raised fresh controversy over the issue of the development project, which has already received allegations of severe corruption.
A corrupt deal?
On October 23, 2017, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved a Tk1,445cr development project for Jahangirnagar University.
In the first phase of implementation of the project, the university administration took the initiative to build five residential halls at the cost of Tk400cr.
On May 1 this year, the project manager put forward a tender invitation, and on June 30, the VC inaugurated the construction work of the residential halls.
However, since the beginning, the project was fraught with allegations of irregularities in the tender process, Chhatra League's intervention, an ill-planned master plan and needless cutting down of trees.
A group of students and teachers, under the banner of "Jahangirnagar against corruption", started protesting against the alleged corruption. When on August 25, claims were brought against the VC of distributing money among Jahangirnagar Chhatra League, their demonstrations intensified.
The VC, the Jahangirnagar Chhatra League, and the teachers supporting the VC had all been denying the allegations, and called the media reports "baseless".
But on Friday, the VC told Dhaka Tribune that the central Chhatra League president and the general secretary had asked her for their cut from the project.
"Shovon and Rabbani came to my residence on August 8, and demanded a 4-6% cut," she said. "Rabbani told me that the time, when people got a cut of 1-2%, is over. In this day and age, a 4-6% cut is needed. When I did not agree to their demands, Rabbani misbehaved with me, and left angrily."
She said Shovon-Rabbani had harassed her at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) when she was receiving treatment there in May, as well.
"They arrived with a group of 200-300 men, and demanded the tender schedule of two or three under-construction projects," she said. "They made me feel unsafe."
Later, on September 10, the VC visited Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her official residence in Ganabhaban and brought up Shovon-Rabbani's issue at a discussion with her.
The VC quoted the prime minister as saying: "They landed you in trouble as well!" and said Sheikh Hasina asked her to not worry about the matter.
The two central Chhatra League leaders also sent a letter to the prime minister accusing the VC, but it is unsure if it has reached her or not.
In the letter, the Chhatra Leaguers apologized for their behaviour, but maintained that the VC had given Tk1.6cr to Jahangirnagar Chhatra League.
"The VC and her family used Jahangirnagar Chhatra League to make a commission business," the letter said. "They gave Jahangirnagar Chhatra League Tk1.6cr before Eid-ul-Azha. When the news spread, the tension in the campus started to rise, and the VC asked us to visit her."
Shovon and Rabbani visited her and asked her why she had given money to Jahangirnagar Chhatra League without their knowledge.
"But she became embarrassed, and then we said some things we should not have. We apologize for it," the letter said.
However, the VC denied these claims. "I never asked them to come; they came anyway. The allegations against my family are defamatory and baseless. They are just trying to incriminate my family because I did not agree to their terms."
Jahangirnagar Chhatra League has also denied receiving Tk1.6cr from the VC.
The ongoing controversy has strengthened the position of the protesting teachers and students. A few of those opposing the VC have demanded her resignation.
An organizer of "Jahangirnagar against corruption", Ashiqur Rahman, said: "The media reports on corruption have begun to be proven true. The contradictory statements from the VC, the central Chhatra League and Jahangirnagar Chhatra League all prove that suspicious activities are afoot."
He added: "I am almost certain there is heavy corruption involved with the development project."