Do student leaders contribute anything of real value to the country?
The way some student workers of Chhatra League have killed a student of Buet is more than a crime -- the killing has shown that the institution has little to no control over the student wing it nurtures.
I have also reflected upon the student wing being infected by gangsterism rather than helping the institution on national issues, or helping the university administration in students’ affairs.
It has also been reported that the student wing in question has been running a “torture cell” in the halls of residence at the university. While we hope to see justice, we also fear that the whole episode, like many others, won’t see the light of day, and will be shelved into the abyss of unfinished tasks.
We have seen such events in the past. But we hope for the best, since our prime minister said she would ensure justice, even though the boy won’t come back even if justice is served.
However, we need justice so that such killings do not happen anymore. We need campuses to be free of crimes and killings.
Having said that, we must mention once again that the boy is no more; he has been deprived of his right to live by a group of killers negatively active in the name of student politics.
This has, once again, put a question mark on the existence of student politics under the banner of political parties. The question mark has been there since long -- for more than 30 years. What has this party politics of students given to the nation, or to the common students?
However, there’s a section of politicians, as well as the intelligentsia, who are and always have been obsessed with the glorious contribution of students’ politics in our national life -- during the Pakistani regimes, during the war of independence, as well as, during the anti-autocratic movements.
We absolutely don’t have an iota of doubt about the great contributions of students as well as student workers of political parties during those times.
Some have argued that if there’s no student politics, how will we prepare the young generation for future leadership?
This, indeed, is a funny analysis; at least to my mind. There are scores of politically and economically successful nation-states that don’t have student wings of political parties on campus. They, I’m sure, aren’t facing any difficulty in leadership.
Allow me to recall some of the actions of some of the members of the student wings of political parties during the anti-autocracy movement at the University of Dhaka. The quality of food in the hall canteens was in a pitiful condition.
I had never seen any member of Ducsu discuss anything with the administration for improving the food quality. Rather, the student workers of political parties were more eager to have free meals from the canteens.
We found that the toilets of all the faculty buildings were horrendously unusable. They were extremely unhygienic. We had never seen any student political leader come forward to solve the crisis.
There were more issues.
We, during our time, have seen massive extortion by student political workers on the shop-keepers of adjacent areas such as Nilkhet and Elephant Road. We witnessed how they extorted money even from rickshaw-pullers.
We don’t know whether the student leaders started working to solve the problems of the common students when the anti-autocracy movement was over. We don’t know whether the student workers stopped extorting businessmen of adjacent areas.
I have never seen any student political leader, or former student leader, writing an article on the education system of the country. I have never seen Ducsu or Rucsu or any elected body such as them organize a workshop or roundtable discussion on the issues of education or the quality of life of university students.
All they did, and still do, is encourage others to get involved in party politics.
Our recent experience suggests that student leaders have also gone into legal and illegal businesses, which shows that they aren’t interested in the future of the students, and for that matter, the country.
They are more interested to earn money or eat the dough of some extorted money for ensuring their own future. Under these circumstances, it would be a stupid idea to say that these student leaders are being readied for leading the country in the future.
Politics has become their business, and they have gone beyond anyone’s control these days.
If our mainstream politicians want to keep student politics in the educational arena, they must ensure the wings add value to the lives of the students. Otherwise, it is time to re-think their existence, and we would demand a moratorium on student politics for a few years.
Right now, if you go for a referendum on the existence of student politics, you might get a “no” for it. What would present-day Bangladesh lose if the student wings of political parties weren’t there?
Ekram Kabir is a story-teller. His other works can be found on ekramkabir.com.