Students of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) have reasons to rejoice: They have succeeded in compelling the university to accept all their demands through a peaceful, nonviolent movement.
During the nearly 57-day movement, the students neither vandalised anything nor did they verbally abuse any officials of the university.
The teachers and the alumni expressed solidarity with the demands of the students, and helped them stand their ground.
At first the students placed seven demands. Then they added three more, but after a few days they cancelled five. Finally, they fought for three demands.
The students are now ready to go back to class and take tests. They said they will take the term-final tests scheduled to be held on December 28. They will also hold a press briefing tomorrow on this issue.
Antara Madhuri Tithi, a spokesperson for the protesting students, told The Business Standard, "Basically, we fought for a safe campus and to restore the image of being the top engineering university of the country."
"In the beginning Buet tried to stop our movement, but they failed. The vice-chancellor did not attend Abrar's namaz-e-janaza (funeral prayer). Our protest intensified after this. Then he met us and gave a speech on October 8 that only proved his irresponsibility.
"He failed to placate us that day because he did not give any specific decision on meeting our demands, including expulsion of Abrar's killers. But the students did not attack anyone or made any abusive comments," Tithi said.
She added, "We had a meeting with the vice-chancellor on October 10 where he assured us that our demands will be met. We treated him with respect but he delayed in taking an initiative.
"However, I thank him now because he has expelled the killers, punished those involved in ragging, banned student politics and has set a punishment for ragging."
Buet sets punitive measures for ragging
A notice published on Monday (December 2) by Buet said ragging leading to death, serious bodily harm, any form of disability, permanent mental imbalance or trauma, disruption of academic life of any student will lead to expulsion of those involved in the act.
The university law officer will also file a case in such a situation, the notice said.
'VC's negligent attitude encouraged killers'
Professor Dr AKM Masud, president of the Buet Teachers Association, told The Business Standard it is a good sign that the university has finally accepted the demands of the students.
"The students may return to class without further delay. We found that the vice-chancellor was negligent in running the university. That is why we held meetings to do something about restoring safety on campus," he said.
"We found that Abrar's killers were encouraged by the vice-chancellor's negligent attitude over torture of students, and his failure to provide safety for students on campus. All these prove that the vice-chancellor has lost his moral standing," he added.
"We also demanded the vice-chancellor's resignation. Every one of our initiatives was about restoring Buet's image. None of us aspired to become the vice-chancellor or hold any other university position. We raised our voice for the welfare of the students and the university," Professor Masud explained.
Professor Mizanur Rahman, director of Buet Students Welfare, told The Business Standard that they tried their best to meet students' demands.
"We also want a safe and distinguished campus. It is true that the initiatives came rather late, but there was nothing we could do about it. We tried to give the students a better decision," he said.
"We will meet all other demands, such as giving compensation to Abrar's family and expulsion of the students of Titumir Hall who were involved in ragging," he added.
Former vice-chancellor of Buet (1983-87) Professor Abdul Matin Patwari told The Business Standard, "I will first thank the students because they held a peaceful movement to press home their demands. This is rare in the history of our culture.
"During my tenure we had a good relationship with the students. Sometimes they tried to become unruly and we tackled that strictly. But I am very pleased with how this protest was staged."
"I think the incumbent vice-chancellor realised the matter and took an initiative that would benefit Buet," he added.
How it all started
The protests started after the heinous murder of Abrar Fahad, a second-year student of the electrical and electronics engineering department.
Abrar was beaten to death by a group of Chhatra League members at the university's Sher-e-Bangla Hall after he criticised the government in a Facebook post on October 7.
The students said they cannot get Abrar back, but will protest to ensure that his killers are brought to justice. They also demanded a safe campus without the influence of student politics and ragging.
As a result of the protests, Buet banned both student and teacher politics on campus, and removed the provost of Sher-e-Bangla Hall on October 10. All floors in each dormitory were brought under round-the-clock CCTV surveillance.
The university also helped law enforcing agencies arrest Abrar's killers and prepare the charge-sheet fast.
Finally, 26 students were expelled over the Abrar killing after police submitted the charge-sheet on November 13. Of them, 25 were named in the charge-sheet.
Another six students were given punishment of different terms for breaching university discipline.