Eminent citizens find Dhaka University vice-chancellor’s comment trying to strike a similarity between activities of protesters for quota reform and those of international militant outfits ‘stupid’ ‘irresponsible’ and ‘unnecessary’.
They say that vice-chancellor Professor M Akhtaruzzman’s comments have proved that he is working as a ‘sycophant’, ‘henchman’ of ruling party and is a ‘black sheep’ of the teachers’ community.
Such branding of students is unimaginable which will further instigate protests, when the government committee on reformation of quota has started meeting, they think.
Akhtaruzzman on Sunday said he found similarities between activities of the protesters for quota reform and those of international extremist outfits like Taliban, Al-Qaeda and al-Shabab.
As media approached him over the recent developments at the university over quota reform protests, Akhtaruzzman said an evil force was active in the ‘so-called’ movement for quota reform.
He said that from a video-clip of quota protesters, it seemed to him that their activities were similar to those of international extremist outfits like Taliban, Al-Qaeda and al-Shabab as their leader Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden used to send their message from unknown locations.
Akhtaruzzman also said that the procession in women’s halls of residence at night were indications of extremist acts as the extremists always used women.
‘Such comments are absurd,’ Dhaka University professor emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury said, adding, ‘He [Akhtaruzzman] made irresponsible comment without knowing the fact.’
Serajul Islam also said that thousands of students took part in spontaneous movement in broad daylight. ‘I do not think any party or group is linked with the movement.’
‘Rather students are taking part in the movement with their legitimate demand and their leaders are known,’ he added.
Students and job seekers took to the streets on February 17 and continued protests for reducing quota in government jobs to 10 per cent from the existing 56 per cent.
The protest intensified from April 8 onwards. In the face of protests across the country, prime minister Sheikh Hasina announced in parliament on April 11 that the quota system in government jobs would be abolished.
The protestors faced attack from police and ruling Awami League-backed student organisation Bangladesh Chhatra league at different places including capital.
The demonstrators called off their protest on the day demanding immediate publication of a gazette of PM’s announcement.
The protestors in late April gave government until April for gazette notification and extended it till May 7. They also extended their ultimatum for several time. As the protestor resumed their latest spell of movement in June 3, police and Chhatra League launched repeated attacks on them.
Police arrested protestors and put on them on remand in custody while Chhatra League carried out series of attacks on protestors at Dhaka University and Rajshahi University campuses.
Protestors also alleged that government hospitals even declined to treat the injured protesters.
Agriculture minister Matia Chowdhury on April 10 branded the protestors as ‘children of Razakars.’ Rajshahi University vice-chancellor Professor Abdus Sobhan on July 6 criticised quota reform activists branding them as ‘Shibir’ and shipping minister Shahjahan Khan on Sunday termed the quota reform protestors as ‘member of anti-liberation circle’.
‘He [Akhtaruzzman] made complete stupid and irresponsible comment,’ Jahangirnagar University professor Anu Muhammad said adding, ‘Such comments have proved that his stupidity has no limit to it.’
‘He is a black sheep among the teachers,’ said Anu Muhammad, also member-secretary of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports.
He said that as a teacher and VC his responsibility was to review the demand of protestors and talk to the government regarding it.
In Bangladesh there were instances of teachers taking side with the students, facing aggression of military government and saving their students, he recalled.
‘But he [Akhtaruzzaman] took the complete opposite stance, like a person without backbone and without showing any sign of responsibility. This overenthusiastic VC took such stance to appease the prime minister.
‘As a teacher I am ashamed of him.
‘He is working on behalf of the government, parroting what government is saying. I do not find any difference between Chhatra League and VC,’ he bemoaned.
Dhaka University professor Ahmed Kamal said such comments from Dhaka University vice-chancellor regarding a spontaneous movement of general students on their democratic demand were ‘unexpected’.
His finding similarity between quota reform protest and international militancy outfits was ‘unfortunate’.
‘We have seen that students in this movement were hurt by both the police and the pro-government students. So far they [protestor] have led a peaceful movement. As far as we see international militants groups usually run their operation by hurting opponents,’ he said.
As a VC his responsibility was to sit with the protesting students and discuss the matter, Ahmed Kamal said.
Another Dhaka University professor Syed Manzoorul Islam said ‘such branding of protestors is painful. It is unfortunate.’
‘I don’t see any ground to compare the protesters with any other group. [Quota reform] protestors from the beginning used social media site and internet facilities in order to organise them’.
‘As a teacher we should not create any divide by branding anyone; rather we should work for unity,’ he observed.
Columnist Syed Abul Maksud, expressing his shock at the VC’s comment, said, ‘Students from Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and ethnic minorities are taking part in protests and branding them as Taliban was unimaginable execrations,’ he said.
‘You can criticise a movement, or even oppose it but can’t make such comment. Such comment will instigate further movement,’ Maksud warned.
Another Dhaka University professor Gitiara Nasreen refused to make any comments over telephone.
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