Campus protests

Students from different universities are protesting to establish their rights and continuing demonstration against undemocratic, tyrannical administrations. With their chants and slogans from different campuses reverberate the sounds of change on campus and in society at large, writes Sohel Tarek


Historically, students’ movements played a foundational role in the political struggle of Bangladesh – the language movement of 1952 leading to the war of independence. In 1991, students have been the vanguards in the movement against autocratic military regime and fought for the democratic aspiration of people of Bangladesh. Ironically, today, more or less 80 per cent of the youth disapproved of student-movement in campuses.

Due to the criminalisation of the main stream student politics since the late 80s and early 90’s, student politics has earned a bad name. It has become increasingly difficult for students on campus to raise voices against the undemocratic environments on campus and in the country. However, last few months, we have seen a turn towards the better. Students from different universities are protesting to establish their rights and continuing demonstration against undemocratic, tyrannical administrations.


Dhaka University: movement for DUCSU election

On July 29, 2017, a senate meeting of Dhaka University was in session to select the three member panel for the selection of next vice chancellor without student representatives, the progressive students alliance gathered in front of the Senate Hall to protest against such exclusion of student voice.

The students of Dhaka University have been deprived of their rights because of the dysfunctional Dhaka University Central Students’ Union and the absence of student representatives in the Senate. The students recently held demonstrations demanding the long-pending election of DUCSU. Holding DUCSU election is necessary for creating new leadership which will strengthen the foundation of our democracy. In the absence of a representative body to look after the welfare of about thirty-seven thousand students of DU, student cadres of different political parties are ruling in the campus. The general students have no say on anything that matters in their campus life. They are at the mercy of these cadres in the residential halls, most of which are under their control. The university authorities must take necessary steps to hold the DUCSU election and restore the democratic environment of the campus.

To the shock of the nation, a section of teachers allegedly loyal to the ruling party factions of the faculty, physically assaulted protesting students.  Protesting students were there to point once and again that the senate meeting was being held without student representatives and defying the ordinance of 1973. Dhaka University and the other public universities of Bangladesh are governed by this Ordinance, which names the Senate as the higher authority of the university and requires participation from current students, alumni and research centers as well as teachers, among others. Sadly, for nearly 26 years, there has been no DUCSU election and no student representative in the Senate.

Instead, teachers are found assaulting peaceful rallies of students. It was observed with much disbelief that, broken students’ glasses, torn their shirts, manhandled female students. With the attack on their peaceful demonstration, student voice and demand for a democratic campus became stronger. Students are bringing out procession, cycle rally.


Jahangirnagar University: ‘  False case against students ‘

On 27 May, in a tragic road accident, two students of Jahangirnagar University, Arafat and Rana, lost their lives. After this shocking death, the demonstration began to demand for road safety and exemplary punishment of those responsible for the negligent driving. However, the administration of the university authority failed to realise the pulse of the students. They have failed to feel the collective grief of students who just lost a friend. While students protest blocking the high-way was an inconvenience for the long-distance travelers, the administration’s move to deal with agitating student was rather undemocratic. Instead of engaging in respectful dialogue, they have allowed to police to run over students, fire bullet and charge tear gas at them.

Many were severely wounded. Sadly, that was not the end of the brutality. When agitated students, after being assaulted by police, marched towards the vice-chancellor’s office to demand an answer, they were again mistreated. At the dead of the night, from the resident of the first ever women vice-chancellor, 42 students were arrested include 12 female students. That too was not the end of the story. The anti-student university administration slapped the student with charges of attempted to murder. It is true that attacked by police, there were some vandalism at the premises of vice chancellor’s residence. However, nothing amounts to attempted murder. In the days following the arrest, bail order from the court, all 56 students harassed by the police. Meanwhile, the university administration refused to drop the false charges.

To protest such tyrannical attitude of the administrations, students of the university formed a platform – Protibader nam Jahangirnagar (Jahangirnagar is the name of resistance). Some teachers of the students also joined the movement.  In demand of withdrawal of the false cases as well as assuring road safety they brought out a large torch procession. Several students started hunger strike and discontinued being assured by the campus authority that the cases will be withdrawn. Teachers started sit in protest. At last, on August 4, the authority agreed to drop the charges. However, it is not dropped yet.

The tragic death of two students and the subsequent events on campus shows how the university administration these days are increasingly becoming more authoritarian, undemocratic and fails to show compassion for students. Salute to the resilient protesting students of Jahangirnagar who proved time and again that they cannot be silenced.


BRACU Protest

BRAC University: Outrage sparked as faculty assaulted

Once again, defying the public perception that private university students are mere consumer of education students of BRAC University protested against the autocratic attitude of the administration. In 2015, students of private universities spoke up against the outrageous Vat imposition on their education even though, by regulation student politics are prohibited in these universities.

On August 1, BRAC University students took to the streets protesting an assault on a teacher of law department by three administrative staff, including the registrar. They also demanded that the authorities concerned reinstate the teacher, Farhaan Uddin Ahmed, who was unjustly terminated. Over hundred students, mostly from the law department, started staging a sit-in in front of the university’s Building-2 which started after the news of the assault, as well as the termination, spread among students.

According to many participating students, the movement sort of gave many students to vent their frustration over the ongoing learning environment of the university. There are many students issues that has been ignored by the administration including the urgent need for a common hang-space for students. They have also raised concern about the dynastic administration of the university. They termed some of the rules and codes being ‘heartless, apathetic’ towards students. There are also allegations of irregularities with course allocation.

At one stage, six students had sat down for hunger strike. The strike was withdrawn after various teachers reassured them that all necessary steps would be taken to resolve the situation. The alleged registrar was sent on forced leave and a probe committee was formed. However, the university authorities were threatening students in many ways to step aside from the movement.

Eventually, the probe committee submitted its record recommending the administration to terminate the registrar and reinstate the unjustly terminated faculty. In the face of students movement Farhaan Uddin Ahmed was returned to his job. The protesting student of Brac University proved the power of student movement, although, it seems like there remains a lot of unresolved issues there.


Siddiqur: Victim of police brutality

Siddikur Rahman, a third-year student of Titumir College, was the worst victim of police brutality in recent time. He has lost his eye sight. Why Siddiqur lost his eye? Was he a notorious criminal or a traitor? No, he is only a student. He lost his eyes because he raised his voice and participated in a procession to demand dates to sit for exams.

It was a peaceful protest voicing the legitimate concerns of students of seven government colleges which got recent affiliation with the Dhaka University. The protestors didn’t throw any brick chips or take any sticks, let alone any arms. They didn’t go there with the intention of creating any chaos or conflict. They formed a human chain and took a position demanding a solution to a protracted problem. Time is passing, yet they were not allowed to sit for exam because of unsettled issues between college and university authority. There was no guideline from the university authorities regarding the exam process although four months have gone since they were affiliated with Dhaka University. Students of third year and master’s of 2013-2014 sessions had their registration done but no date of exam was fixed.

There demand was more than legitimate and the protest was peaceful. But, soon it turned into a violent conflict, when the police charged them with batons and tear gas. A policeman fired tear shell from close range which hit him. The nation witnessed the video of the event. Yet, the police instead of investigating accused officer filed case against unnamed 1,200 students of these seven colleges on charges of attempting to kill policemen, rioting with lethal weapons and damaging property.

One Siddiqur has lost light in life to get exam dates. Following the protest on Thursday, the authorities of the colleges — Dhaka College, Eden Mohila College, Government Shaheed Suhrawardy College, Kabi Nazrul Government College, Begum Badrunnesa Government Mohila College, Mirpur Government Bangla College and Government Titumir – announced the exam schedules.

All these students protests in various campuses remind us slightly of the past glory of student movements. As we know, throughout the history of Bangladesh, countless students have taken to the streets demanding changes in the status quo. They have gathered together to demand better and fairer education for all as well as for the oppressed population, and against repressive government regimes. Bloodshed, injury and even death did not deter them.

In recent months, the chants and slogans from different campuses reverberate the sounds of change on campus and in society at large.


Sohel Tarek is a student of University of Dhaka

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