Student politics should return to its truest nature
What is happening in Bangladesh in the name of student politics is actually the perpetuation of a gangland culture. We need to return to the true spirit of student politics which used to be there earlier in order to put a stop to these criminal activities.
That culture of student politics is what the Buet students have been trying to promote following the murder of Abrar Fahad by demanding justice and reform.
Student politics in the old days in Bangladesh was acclaimed because of the movement for rights and democratic politics it was based on. A student organization is nothing if it does not uphold the interests of students across the spectrum.
It is my belief that banning student politics will not be a solution to the problems we face today. I would rather say that student politics should be revived at Buet. I say that because what has been going on at
Buet in the name of student politics is no politics at all. In the interest of a revival of student politics at the institution, a schedule for student union elections should be announced. It will get student politics back on track, indeed to its traditional role. At the same time, student politics affiliated with political parties should be banned.
Students above the age of 18 years can register as union activists. The student bodies should be organized on their own instead of through any directive or dictates from 'mother' organizations'.
Back in our time, we could influence the political parties through our own agendas. All the way from the War of Liberation to the movements against dictatorship, the student organizations exercised their influence on the political parties. But once political parties began to influence the student organizations, the essence of student politics began to erode, to a point where we have come to this pass at present.
The universities should recognize only those organizations that do not have political party affiliations. It is not just about any particular institution; it is about a national process.
Following the brutal murder at the Buet campus, a unanimous stance has been created against the vile political environment in the educational institutions. We need to utilize this sentiment and continue and expand the discourse against violent campus politics.
The Buet students are mourning the tragic murder of their fellow student and we certainly respect their sentiments. But they also need to get their priorities right insofar as the demand for banning student politics is concerned.
I hope that the demand of the BUET students for a ban on student politics is being voiced as a way of registering their protest over the murder. A ban on student politics will not lead to the academic and campus-related reforms the students demand. It is rather through allowing student organizations to return to their original calling that will help improve the situation.
The students should rather demand a ban on organizations that have been causing terror on the campus. Not every organization should be held responsible for the lapses and crimes of the Chhatra League. The students should make it clear that merely bringing the culprits to book will not suffice. The organization they belong to should also be proscribed on the BUET campus.
In our times, we declared a mass ban on the politics of the Shibir and Natun Bangla Chhatra Samaj owing to their sinister politics at Dhaka University. That ban was not from the state, but a stance adopted by general students against the politics of criminality.
Now the time has come for the present generation to take a stand against the Chhatra League. Although it is a traditional organization with a rich past, what the Chhatra League now stands for is a negation of its former self. Today the Chhatra League is home to people with criminal records. This organization is now a menace for university students.
Recently Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina issued a warning against the thugs of the Chhatra League. We have to understand the significance of the Prime Minister's comments. She cannot unilaterally dismantle the Chhatra League as that would give the impression of autocratic behaviour on her part. Students should read between the lines of her speech and in light of that should demand a ban on the politics of the Chhatra League. For its part, the Chhatra League can take the bold step of dismantling itself in the larger interest of a return to student politics as it ideally ought to be.
Mushtaq Hossain is the former General Secretary of Dhaka University Central Students' Union (DUCSU).
Ban violence, not politics
Student politics in Bangladesh has a glorious history behind it. But we need to understand why students themselves have now demanded a ban on student politics. If we observe the current situation at the universities, we see the students' wing of the ruling party trying to take control of the university and attempting to create an authoritarian environment on the campus
The Chhatra League people have been terrorizing both resident and non-resident students at Buet. Although the university administration is supposed to run the halls of the university, the Bangladesh Chhatra League has taken over control of the halls and has forced resident students to take part in different rallies and processions.
This is not student politics. It is rather complete anarchy and the death of Abrar is a result of this anarchy. I think the students have demanded a ban on the politics of hate and violence rather than on the totality of student politics. Student politics is never a bad thing. The way students have come together and demanded justice for Abrar is a political movement. We can term it as a movement against injustice.
And this protest is not new. We have seen students hit the roads during the quota reform and road safety movements. They have demanded what has always been a right for them and it only happened because they are politically aware. And politically conscious students can never demand a ban on student politics.
Right now, we need student unions in the colleges and universities to break free of such filthy student politics. We have talked to the students of Buet and all of them have told us they just want the nasty activities of the Bangladesh Chhatra League, and not student politics, to be put to a stop. But they are afraid of expressing their feelings openly, as the Chhatra League is the students wing of the ruling party and everyone, including in the university administrations, backs them. That is a reason why they are asking for a ban on the entirety of student politics.
Agreement is required to put a stop to these negative activities. It is not only the Chhatra League but also other student organizations indulging in similar activities whenever their political parties happened to be in power. Besides, elections to students unions were not held after 1990. It is only through the activities of students unions that we can draw bright and meritorious students into politics.
The Prime Minister has stated that Abrar will get justice and no one responsible for his murder will be spared. But I do not detect any hope in her words. We have previously heard her saying in parliament that the quota system would be done away with. But we all know what the aftermath has been. Yet I believe if there is true willingness on her part and if she can
order the Chhatra League to desist from its negative actions, justice will be possible.
The current government has been in power for three consecutive terms. It could have easily changed the environment of the universities. Instead its students' wing has done just the opposite.
Student politics will always be there. If direct politics is banned at every educational institution, it will hardly be a problem for the ruling party as it will remain active in different forms on university premises.
Repression will continue and the main sufferers will be the general students, for whom a ban on student politics will be a bar to any movement they will consider necessary in their interest. It is really not possible to stop student politics in any way. But, seeing the recent activities of the ruling party students' body, I believe the situation is changing. The ruling party has been taking steps to control its student activists.
Besides, the ongoing movement and the previous quota reform movement have made one thing clear --- students want a better academic environment, a campus free of violence and repression.
Nurul Haq Nur is the present Vice President of Dhaka University Central Students' Union (DUCSU).