No blanket ban on student politics

Nadeem Qadir
Published : 19:39, Oct 12, 2019 | Updated : 19:47, Oct 12, 2019

Nadeem QadirNews of banning politics in the premier Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) has been widely welcomed, but one thought lingered: if students are not involved in this important democratic exercise, how would the country produce future leaders?
The ban of politics on campuses was not a new demand only from the parents of the students, a large section of young people studying in different educational institutions also support it. Both sections feel that the current type of campus politics made lives risky and sometimes fatal--- example, the recent murder of BUET student Abrar Fahad.
Current student politics has been directly linked to the country’s major political parties. Student leaders wield muscle power which at times ensures for them a certain impunity. That encourages these student activists to commit crimes like the murder of Abrar.
It must be made clear that all student activists do not turn into thugs in the name of being a member of a political group like the killers of Abrar. It was the right of students to do politics of their choice to be a national leader and serve the country.
Members of the BUET unit of Bangladesh Chatra League (BCL) could dare to turn into thugs and kill Abrar, largely because of our sad tradition of impunity for lawlessness or “managing” situations. The Police cannot be always blamed for putting up a weak charge sheet. Mostly powerful political elements order them to do so, especially those belonging to the ruling party of that time.
This politically volatile country has witnessed the excesses of student activism from those belonging to the major political organizations for years. There were the killing seven people in the Dhaka University shortly after the birth of Bangladesh.
Saiful Alam Prodhan killed 7 DU students in front of the TV Room of DU Mohsin Hall (Kohinoor and other 6 from Narayangonj area) in 1974, although he denied his hand in the murders.
He was General Secretary of the then ruling Awami League- backed Bangladesh Chatra League (BCL), Bangabandhu's government did not show any mercy. He was arrested and sentenced to a life term for murder.
But when General Ziaur Rahman seized power he pardoned Prodhan and several others convicted in the case for political mileage – an alleged buy-off for supporting the military government.
Since then possibly no other campus killings have been dealt with firmly--- especially the gruesome killings of Islami Chatra Shibir, the student front of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami --- the party of 1971war criminals.
Thus such examples of the offenders going scot-free have only encouraged campus killings.
The other reason was the patronization of student activists by leaders of the party they were linked to. It was no secret they felt “untouchable” by-laws despite resorting to such ugly acts of violence instead of serving the interest of the student community specifically and national development at large.
Most students come from the countryside and are helpless in the hands of the “political thugs” to ensure a “bed or a part of the floor to sleep,” not a room, in the campus dormitories leading to crimes over which they have no control. It is their survival that matters, to ensure a meaningful life in the future.
BUET student Abrar Fahad`s killing sparked nationwide protests with protesters demanding justice for Abrar and capital punishment for the killers. PHOTO: Bangla Tribune/Sazzad HossainSome fall prey or others love to be the lord as they become wealthy and powerful. “Angul Fuley Kalagach” (sudden rich and the follies) as the premier has noted over people arrested under her anti-graft crackdown.
What is essential is to allow students to also do national politics, but the political parties they represent must set rules to regulate their operations, stop patronizations on any ground by any of its leaders, the police should be ordered to act even if ruling party activists are involved in wrongdoing and new entrants should be trained about their dos and don'ts.
The other important factor is the direct involvement of the teachers some of whom also patronize student activists, besides getting political appointments without having the required qualifications to run major educational institutions.
This author remembers how his teachers of the Dhaka University’s International Relations faculty became concerned when HE was down with hepatitis (Jaundice). One of them came to my residence to see how was I doing!
It was the same for my teachers in St. Joseph High School and Notre Dame College.
But it was shocking to learn how BUET VC Prof Saiful Islam and others had acted when one of their children was being murdered. Possibly factional politics and their ideological allegiance kept them away from rushing to rescue Abrar. How shocking that the VC could sleep normally s before emerging the next evening and behaving normally. This is condemnable.
Parents do not think of their lives or their jobs if their children are in danger.
Let us take a lesson from this very sad incident to honour the memory of Abrar, whatever may have been his political beliefs but as a human being like us and who was among the top students of the country.
May he rest in eternal peace!
Nadeem Qadir is the Consulting Editor, Daily Sun and a UN Dag Hammarskjöld fellow.

***The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions and views of Bangla Tribune.