Universities get no directive to clear ‘torture cells’

Ahammad Foyez and Arifur Rahman | Published: 00:00, Oct 18,2019


Public universities are yet to get any government directive to conduct drives at their student halls of residence although prime minister Sheikh Hasina announced on October 9 that she would order law-enforcing agencies to search all such dorms to free those from ‘torture cells’.

Hasina made the announcement at a press conference at her official residence Ganabhaban in response to a question over Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology student Abrar Fahad murder.

The issue of ‘torture cells’ at public university halls became a talk of the country after Abrar was tortured to death by some leaders of the BUET unit of the ruling Awami League-backed student body Bangladesh Chhatra League in its ‘torture cell’ at Sher-E-Bangla Hall of the university.

Abrar was killed reportedly for his criticism on Facebook of the recent Bangladesh-India deals allowing India to lift water from the transborder river Feni and use the Chattogram and Mongla seaports.

Dhaka University proctor Golam Rabbani said that they were yet to receive any instructions to conduct raids at their dorms.

If needed, the hall provosts would take necessary actions and the proctor office would assist them in conducting raids at the university’s 21 student halls, including five for females, he hastened to add. 

New Age correspondents talked to authorities of different public universities on Tuesday and Wednesday in this regard.

Chattogram University acting vice-chancellor Shirin Akter said that they were yet to get any such instruction.

She, however, said that they had an anti-ragging cell and a vigilance team to inspect the halls.

Some universities claimed that they usually conducted drives at their student dorms when necessary.

After the prime minister’s announcement, many current and former students on social media started sharing their experiences of going through tortures at dorms.

General students said that they were subjected to tortures mainly by the pro- ruling party student organisation in the name of ragging or for dissenting views.

And the hall guest rooms were always used as the torture cells, they alleged.

DU proctor Golam  Rabbani said that they usually conducted raids at student halls on specific information.

He further said that they had a meeting with Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Shafiqul Islam on Monday where the university authorities sought assistance from the law-enforcing agency to keep their campus peaceful.

Mohammad Sajib, a second-year philosophy student of Dhaka University, opined that the university authorities should conduct raids at the dorms as the pro-Awami League student body Bangladesh Chhatra League established a reign of terror at the student halls.

Earlier on October 11, Kabi Jasimuddin Hall authorities of Dhaka University conducted a raid at the dorm and recovered some local weapons.

In the face of the student protests seeking justice for Abrar’s murder, the BUET authorities conducted drives at the university’s student halls against the outsiders and non-students.

The authorities also sealed off a number of rooms at different dorms which were used as BCL ‘offices’.

On October 13, BUET director of student welfare Mizanur Rahman told reporters that already 90 per cent of non-students and outsiders were ousted from the campus.

According to the New Age Rajshahi University correspondent, RU proctor Professor Lutfor Rahman said that they did not receive any direction yet from the higher authorities but were planning to conduct sudden drives at the student residential halls soon.

Meanwhile, the hall authorities of Shaheed Habibur Rahman Hall of the university searched room 330 at the dorm on Sunday where BCL RU unit law faculty general secretary resides.

Witnesses said, a BCL activist was seen taking away something wrapped in a bed sheet from the room in front of the hall’s provost Professor Jahidul Islam just a few minutes before they searched the room.

Earlier on Saturday, Syed Ameer Ali Hall authorities also searched two rooms of the dorm after a declaration in this regard by the hall authorities and found nothing.

The New Age staff correspondent in Sylhet reported that the Shahjalal University of Science and Technology administration was yet to conduct any search operation at its student halls to flush out any illegal residents from its dorms.

Administrative officials, however, claimed that the university’s vice-chancellor, Farid Uddin Ahmed, had already instructed them to conduct raids at its dorms following the PM’s directive.

Talking to New Age on Tuesday, the university’s First Ladies Hall provost Zaheda Sharmin told New Age that the vice-chancellor already asked them in the academic council meeting on Sunday for taking steps to conduct raids at the dorms.

She said that any person coming from outside to their campus was not allowed to stay at the halls of female students.

‘SUST has no tradition of calling police inside the female dorms, thought the raids are usually conducted with the help of police personnel,’ the provost said, adding that the movement of the hall residents remained under their strict watch.

SUST proctor Zahir Uddin Ahmed told this newspaper that the student halls on the university campus were completely free from any political or non-political group.

He assured that nobody coming from outside to the campus was found staying in the dorms.

Zahir, however, admitted that a few students, who already had completed their respective main courses, were living in the dorms for the purpose of taking preparations for and appearing at the coming BCS examinations.

According to the New Age correspondent in Islamic University, Kushtia, a student of the university’s Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Hall said that the university authorities had no control over the hall.

As a result, rebel BCL activists who have occupied the hall force them to take part in the organisation’s programmes including demonstrations and processions.

IU proctor Professor Paresh Chandra Barman told New Age that the university authorities issued a letter to each of its hall provosts to look into the hall affairs.

A monitoring cell was also formed so that no students faced persecution and torture by any student body or any leaders any such organisation, he added.

Meanwhile, a total of 20 BUET students have been arrested by law-enforcing agencies from different parts of the country for their alleged involvement in Abrar murder.

In the face of a demand by its agitating students following the murder, the BUET authorities banned all sorts of political organisaiton and political activity on the campus.

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