Only a year remaining for the ruling party, Mohiuddin Alamgir looks back into the violence of Awami League-backed students' organisation Bangladesh Chhatra League
If there is any bit of the official motto of 'Education, Peace and Progress' that Bangladesh Chhatra League, the student wing of the ruling party Awami League, has lived up to over the past decades, it has been creating obstacles in education, creating anarchy within and outside its organisation in the name of establishing peace and appropriating wealth in the name of progress for personal gains through tender grabbing and extortion.
After the present government assumed office on January 6, 2009, besides taking over the campuses, occupying halls, beating up opposition student leaders and so on at the academic institutions, Chhatra League activists have been alleged for vandalism, robbery, extortion, looting and plundering in different parts of the country.
Besides terrorising academic institutions and actively influencing bidding processes in universities and colleges under the National University, Chhatra League, since the inception of this government has killed at least 20 student activists of rival student organisations at recurrent clashes according to earlier reports. The repeated clashes have jeopardised the academic curriculums of the institutions, taking toll on general students' academic career.
General students and many in the society believe that the ruling party uses their student activists in the major educational institutions as loyal foot soldiers to maintain the party's dominance. Chhatra League activists have been continuously resorting to violence to establish their absolute supremacy on campuses by preventing activists of other student organisations from entering the campuses and holding protests.
Recent remarks from senior cabinet members of the incumbent government also pose serious concerns of whether the government is directly patronising the violence and anarchy staged by the BCL members. The home minister, MK Alamgir's remark that BCL members were not involved in the killing of Bishwajit on December 9, in spite of photographs, footages and reports documenting their attachment with the student body, indicate a pattern of blindly defending and patronising the offences committed by BCL.
In fact Bishwajit's killing comes as a reminder to the impunity to the terror exercised by the ruling party's student affiliate, both inside and outside educational institutions across the country.
Members of BCL are also accused of sexually harassing and raping women on different occasions. None of the perpetrators have however, been taken to task.
Sathkira district unit BCL president Sheikh Juel Hasan and general secretary Nazmul Huda Palash, sexually harassed a girl who took part in a function marking the 64th founding anniversary of BCL on January 4, 2012. Ahsan Kabir Mamun, also known as Mamun Howladar, information secretary of Pirojpur district committee of the BCL, raped a class X student in Pirojpur, in September 2009. The incident was recorded on cell phone by his childhood friend 'Ganja' Monir and distributed in local video shops.
On February 21, 2010 BCL activists beat up a young girl and her friends who were returning from the central Shaheed Minar, in front of the Dhaka University vice-chancellor's residence.
BCL activists sexually harassed at least 20 female students on the Bengali New Year on April 14, 2010 at a concert at Raju Chattar in the premises of University of Dhaka. They tore apart outfits of two female students, forcing them to accept shirts offered by male concert-goers, to cover themselves.
According to newspaper reports, in 2010 BCL leaders of the Eden Girls College, besides profiteering from admission, were involved in tender manipulation, wheeling and dealing, buying up BTV slots, and lobbying. The leaders exploit the first year students, those from village backgrounds, telling them that this is the way to fulfill their dreams of becoming leaders, and becoming wealthy. The girls are taken to the houses of different leaders, sometimes to hotels. Women students who refuse to do as advised are either turned out of the hostel, or their room is broken into, or locked up.
On August 13, 2011 Chhatra League activists foiled the examinations for teacher's recruitment at the SD Degree College at Kotchandpur in Jhenaidah. The activists beat up the college principal, Amal Kumar Ghosh.
BCL cadres were heard to be engaged in question paper leakage of the 33rd BCS written examination which was later cancelled in October 2012
At least 20 teachers of the Bangladesh Agricultural University were injured when Chhatra League activists attacked them on August 8, 2011. The university proctor, Abu Hadi Noor Ali, came under attack after he handed over to the police two students held on suspicion of being involved in mugging in the botanical garden of the university.
On May 22, 2011 a teacher of chemistry at the Government Bangla College at Mirpur in Dhaka was attacked by Chhatra League activists during the HSC admission test. Rubel Hawlader, a BCL leader pushed the teacher down the staircase from the first floor in a college building as he did not agree to have students of their choice admitted.
Using political leverage of the ruling party, Bangladesh Chhatra League has been carrying out assaults on its major opponent, Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal, the student wing of Bangladesh Nationalist Party and other opposition parties. The League students still refuse to leave any space for its political opponents in the campuses.
At least 50 activists of Bangladesh Students Union and Samajtantrik Chhatra Front were injured as Chhatra League activists attacked them in Bangladesh Agricultural University in Mymensingh on October 11, 2012. The BCL members attacked the left-leaning students for protesting an increase in admission fee to Tk 6,214 from Tk 1,825 for 2012–13.
Fifteen of Chhatra Dal members were injured in September this year during an assault by the Chhatra League. The same month Chhatra League activists stopped Chhatra Dal members from entering the Rajshahi University campus. At least 10 members of Chhatra Dal were injured during the clash.
Earlier in March, nine Chhatra Dal activists of the same university were injured in an assault by Chhatra League activists on a procession of the former.
The Chhatra League on May 23 this year drove Chhatra Dal men out of the Jhenidah College campus. The same month, they also drove out Chhatra Dal activists from the Zia Hostel in Rangpur Medical College; in February, student activists of the League drove out Chhatra Dal members from the Government Brajamohan College in Barisal.
BCL activists also hindered protest of any kind against the government and the administration. On April 28, 2012 Chhatra League members in Jahangirnagar University beat up at least 15 Sangskritik Jote activists for protesting a Chhatra League attack on teachers.
In the first week of January, League's student activists in Khulna University of Engineering and Technology attacked general students who were protesting at substandard food served at an annual feast. The same month, Jagannath University unit of Chhatra League attacked a procession of the Progressive Students' Alliance when general students were rallying against a development fee at the time of admission.
In January 2010, the then Chhatra Dal president Sultan Shalauddin Tuku and 30 others were injured while Chhatra League activists stopped Chhatra Dal entering the campus.
Prime Minister's embarrassment
At the backdrop of Chhatra League's terror, the Awami League president, Sheikh Hasina, also the prime minister, quit as the Chhatra League's organisational chief on April 4, 2009. She directed the law enforcement agencies to take stern action against people involved in criminal activities, extortion and tender manipulation irrespective of the organisations they belong to.
Sadly, her order has fallen to deaf ears as BCL activists in all the institutions continue their rampage.
AL general secretary, Syed Ashraful Islam, came up with the revelation that Shibir followers have infiltrated deep into the BCL's top ranks and are responsible for the ongoing violence in the educational institutions.
BCL activities also irritated AL leaders who were presidents of the Chhatra League in the past like Tofail Ahmed and Obaidul Quader. The duo while talking to Xtra on several occasions had refused to make any comment regarding activities of Chhatra League. 'Such incidents are unfortunate. I am not going to make any further comments…Ask the Chhatra League leaders,' said Obaidul Quader.
History of violent student politics
In the independent Bangladesh, the first incident of killing in student politics took place in 1974, when BCL activists, under the leadership of then general secretary Shafiul Alam Prodhan, killed seven students of the Mohsin hall, at around 2:00am on April 4, 1974.
A prey of this inner party struggle was Moniruzzaman Badal, the organising secretary of BCL. Badal was killed during the clash on January 9, 1992 in front of the Shamsunnahar Hall of DU.Moyeen Hossain Raju, a student of the University of Dhaka and an activist of Bangladesh Chhatra Union (BCU) was killed during gunfight between BCL and JCD. Raju organised a demonstration against terrorism on campus during the firing.
The nation was mortified when reports were published in the dailies about Jasimuddin Manik, general secretary of JU unit BCL, who celebrated his 'century of rape' during his campus life in 1998. The current BCL president HM Badiuzzaman Shohag and general secretary Siddique Nazmul Alam told Xtra on several occasions that their organisation, had not tolerated campus violence in the past. 'We will not tolerate any violence in the future, too,' said Shohag. The statements however, appear to make a mockery of student body's practices.
'Anyone found guilty of being engaged in violence will be expelled from the organisation and handed over to the law enforcers,' Nazmul said.