The DUCSU elections have brought more gloom than hope to students of Dhaka University
The DUCSU elections hit the University of Dhaka after 28 long years, but turned out to be an election of farce, a drama staged by the administration. Shrobona Shafique Dipti, an independent candidate fighting for the post of Independence and Liberation War Affairs Secretary, was harassed by ruling party cadres inside Ruqqayah Hall.
Ironically, the provost of the hall filed a case against her, accusing her of creating nuisance and chaos inside the vote centre.
Sheikh Rafi Ahmed, a third-year student of the Department of Economics and a non-resident student of Bijoy 71 hall, was almost dragged by his collar outside of the vote-centre by the same people. His offence -- he wanted to vote according to his choice. Fatin Ishtiak, a student of the Marketing department arrived at 8:30 in the morning, and was unable to vote after waiting for hours.
DUCSU elections are different from the national elections for one major reason: The most meritorious students in the university, who lack the necessary manpower and resources, participate in the election out of sheer love and compassion for the campus and its people. They fund their campaigns with their own hard-earned money, without big sponsors. Most of them do not even have prior experience in politics.
But a Cafeteria and Common Room Affairs Secretary does not need to arrange processions -- instead, that person requires proper knowledge regarding food, nutrition, hygiene, and well-being. A Transportation Secretary does not have to be a popular leader, but requires the knowledge and capability to make transportation easier for students. These things brought the people in the front, who were never involved in politics, but wanted to contribute to the welfare of the university.
Despite every questionable election that has taken place in the country over the last few years, DU students still dreamt of a fair DUCSU election. But this election turned out to have been rigged to the core. While the ballot boxes were supposed to be sent to halls in the morning of the election, they were sent to the centres the day before. Moreover, where every election is supposed to have transparent ballot boxes, the boxes that were supplied for this election were made of steel.
The authorities were supposed to show the boxes to the representatives of each block, but that did not happen in many centres. This was opposed by every student block that participated in the election, except the ruling party’s student wing.
In the morning of the election, ballot boxes were found with stuffed ballot papers in bundles. Polling agents were not allowed from the other blocks, only “Shovon-Rabbani-Saddam” card-holders were to be seen inside the centres. The administration showed clear and shameless bias towards this party.
Some of our very close friends participated in the elections. We saw how hard they worked, and the dedication with which they fought. Fahad Al Mahmood, a member candidate, did not go home for eight straight days, choosing to stay in the dorms to communicate with the residents and do the publicity. His campaign was fully based on crowd-funding. He is just one example.
These people did not have their banners all around the campus, but they bore the common student’s dream, who always wanted to witness a positive change inside the campus. Another member candidate, Mahir Farhan Khan, did not ask for votes outside the classroom even after getting numerous requests from his friends to do so, just because he wanted to abide by the rules.
This election made a mockery of the honesty that these people have shown all throughout the process.
Everyone knew how rigged the entire process had been. Yet, when complaints were taken to the returning officer, he could do nothing except promise to advocate to the core committee. Even the returning officer indirectly admitted that he does not hold the power of decision-making entirely by himself.
If not the returning officer, then who holds the power to make the ultimate decision? The VC? The very person who denied all the allegations of irregularities and declared the election a fair one? The very man who refused to talk to his students who gathered in front of his home with evidence of immense irregularities?
The teachers who observed the situation also agreed that the election was by no means fair. They saw the irregularities with their own eyes. They saw how the voting queue turned out to be a never-ending one. They saw how, despite repeated complaints of irregularities, none of them was taken into account.
The most heinous part was that the results were declared without proper investigation of all the complaints that kept coming. Even if the process was slightly rigged in just one hall, it could have serious repercussions.
Why, then, were the results announced before properly investigating the complaints?
At this point, no protest could bring about the change that all of us want. Nurul Haque Nur, the newly elected VP, who at first boycotted the election for being rigged, could not resist the temptation to become VP.
Does a university really deserve any better than the current situation, where students can go home with peace of mind even after knowing how rigged the election process of their own student union has been?
In a university where BCS preparations are more important than standing up for yourself, where quota issues are more important for people to form a movement behind than the slow death of your own institution, what is even the point of hoping for change?
Nahaly Nafisa Khan and Shihab Hasan Neyon are students of Dhaka University.