Most of the contesting panels on Monday boycotted midway through the long-awaited elections to the Dhaka University Students’ Union and hall unions marred by allegations of attacks on contestants, ballot stuffing, obstacles in the queues and administrative failure.
Of the 13 contesting panels, Pragatishil Chhatra Oikya, Sadharan Chhatra Adhikar Sangrakshan Parishad, Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal, Swatantra Jote, Chhatra Federation, Swadhikar Swatantra Prishad and Islami Shasantantra Chhatra Andolan announce boycott midway through the polling protesting at the alleged vote rigging by the ruling Awami League’s student body Bangladesh Chhatra League.
Bangladesh Chhatra Maitree also rejected the polls and demanded re-elections, said a release signed by its office secretary Hasibul Islam Imran.
Eight Dhaka University teachers, who observed the polls, in a statement said that irregularities in the polls embarrassed them and tarnished the image of the university.
According to the statement signed by mass communication and journalism teacher Fahmidul Haq, the teachers demanded trial of people responsible for irregularities.
The protesting students announced a sit-in at the base of Raju Sculpture at Teachers Students Centre of the university for an indefinite period from Tuesday morning if the university administration failed to cancel the polls by Monday night.
Vice-president candidate Md Nurul Huq of of Sadharan Chhatra Adhikar Sangrakshan Parishad was beaten up by Chhatra League
activists at Ruqayyah Hall at about noon, witnesses said.
Vice-president contestants Liton Nandy and Auroni Semonti Khan of Pragatishil Chhatra Oikya and Swatantra Jote respectively and liberation war affairs secretary candidate Srabana Shafiq Dipti of Swatantra Jote were also assaulted allegedly by Chhatra League activists during the polls.
Daily Amader Somoy journalist Habib Rahman was harassed allegedly by Chhatra League activists while filming student protests at Salimullah Muslim Hall.
He alleged that Chhatra League activists took away his mobile and official identity card.
In a statement, Dhaka Reporters’ Unity president Ilias Hossain and general secretary Kabir Ahmed Khan condemned attack on Habib.
Vice-president candidate Golam Rabbani, also the Chhatra League general secretary, claimed that Nurul and Liton acted as injured.
‘Their allegations [on vote rigging] were baseless,’ he said.
After a gap of 28 years, the polling in the elections to the central and hall students’ unions began at 8:00am on Monday.
Chhatra League put its activists, mostly junior resident students, in queues in front of polling stations at the halls about two hours before the polling.
Although the university transports carried non-resident students to the campus in time, jamming the queues by Chhatra League activists delayed the non-resident students to cast their vote, witnesses said.
Resident students of Bangladesh-Kuwait Maitree Hall alleged that while waiting in the queue, some of their hall mates found full-sack stuffed ballots inside a washroom of the hall at about 8:20am.
‘The ballots were stuffed for the Chhatra League-nominated Rajia-Senjuti-Ankhi panel,’ said independent hall union vice-president candidate Susmita Dey. After counting of the ballot Monday night, Susmita was declared elected vice-president of the hall union.
The recovery triggered spontaneous protests by the students.
A team of observers led by university professor Gitiara Nasreen visited the hall. Team member Fahmidul Haque said that they found proof of ballot stuffing.
Resident student of the hall Maksuda Sarker said that she became frustrated witnessing such ‘vote rigging.’
Following student protests, pro-vice-chancellor (administration) Muhammad Samad visited the hall and announced postponement of voting and suspension of acting hall provost Shabnam Jahan.
At about 10:00am, chief returning officer Mahfujur Rahman announced Mahbuba Nasreen as the new provost of the hall.
Voting at the hall resumed at about 11:10am and continued till 5:10pm.
Voters, especially non-resident male students, alleged that they waited in the queue for hours from 10:30am but could not cast their vote.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Hall union general secretary contestant Pratnapratim Mehdi of Pragatishil Chhatra Oikya told New Age that voters hanging campaign card from their neck jammed the queues and polling stations creating obstacle for the non-resident to cast their vote.
A Bijoy Ekattor Hall resident student said that Chhatra League leaders compelled them to occupy the voters’ queue for long time even after casting their vote.
He said that Chhatra League leaders, violating the electoral code of conducts, kept close surveillance so that juniors could not cast their vote against Chhatra League panel.
Ruqayyah Hall students also discovered hidden ballot boxes and ballots at the hall union office which led hour-long chaos on the hall premises.
Opposition candidates for the hall union said that the hall authorities showed only six of the nine ballot boxes when the voting started at 8:00am.
Tanjina Tanji, a post graduate resident student of the hall, alleged that the ballot boxes full of fresh ballots were kept in a hidden place so that Chhatra League could stuff them illegally.
She added that hall unit Chhata League activists assaulted female students who protested against it.
Like Bangladesh-Kuwait Maitree Hall students, the protesters also brought out a procession demanding resignation of the hall provost over the election irregularity.
When Sadharan Chhatra Adhikar Sangrakshan Parishad organiser Nurul visited the hall at about noon to inquire about the irregularities, female Chhatra League activists assaulted him, leaving him unconscious, witnesses said.
Nurul was later rushed to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
The voting at the hall, which was suspended for hours, resume at about 3:00pm.
At noon, contestants along with supporters of Pragatishil Chhatra Oikya, Sadharan Chhatra Adhikar Sangrakshan Parishad, Swatantra Jote, Chhatra Federation and Swadhikar Swatantra Prishad at a briefing at Madhu’s Canteen on the campus announced the boycott of the polls.
At a separate briefing at the same place, Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal also boycotted the polls.
All the aggrieved parties marched on the campus for immediate re-election to DUCSU and hall unions.
Chief returning officer SM Mahfuzur Rahman was intercepted by the protesters in front of Ruqayyah Hall while crossing the procession.
The protesters staged a brief sit-in in front of the vice-chancellor’s house and chanted slogans for resignation of university authorities, including the vice-chancellor, for their failure to hold a fair election.
At about 2:00pm, Chhatra League general secretary Golam Rabbani and his supporters reached there.
He blamed their opponents for disrupting the ‘peaceful’ voting environment.
To avoid clash with the appearance of Rabbani, the protesters left the spot and marched to the vice-chancellor’s office.
They chanted slogans for cancellation of the vote counting.
At a rally at Registrar Building, the protesters announced sit-in for Tuesday and left the spot at 5:30pm.
Chhatra League contenders held a briefing at Madhu’s Canteen where Golam Rabbani criticised the protesters saying that the protesters had planned to stage a drama as a means of safe exit apprehending their defeat in the polls.
Vice-chancellor Md Akhtaruzzaman, while visiting Bangladesh-Kuwait Maitree Hall said that the university authorities could not avoid the responsibility of vote rigging.
He, however, later claimed that the elections polls were held in a festive and peaceful manner.
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