JU protesters say they won’t budge

Ershad Kamol with Saiful Islam | Published: 00:15, Nov 08,2019

 
 

Jahangirnagar University students rally in front of the vice-chancellor’s residence on the campus defying authorities’ ban on gathering after the university was announced closed. — Sourav Lasker

The protesters at Jahangirnagar University had been continuing their agitation for the third day on Thursday at the closed institution to press for removal of its vice-chancellor for her alleged corruption.

The agitators brought out processions, and staged rallies and a ‘protest concert’ in front of vice-chancellor Farzana Islam’s residence despite a ban on such protests. 

Also, there had been a huge contingent of police on the university campus since Wednesday to prevent any outbreak of violence.

Besides, all the 16 student halls of residence at the university were locked after vacating those and the nearby makeshift food-shops shut down by the university provost committee.

Students who stayed at nearby residences of their friends or teachers on Wednesday night said that they would not leave the campus.

They vowed to continue their protest until ‘corrupt and autocrat’ Farzana’s was removed.

Many teachers and employees of the university also joined the agitation programmes on Thursday.

The agitating teachers and students had been demanding an inquiry since August 23 into corruption by the vice chancellor over a Tk 1,445-crore university development project.

The agitators under the banner of ‘Jahangirnagar against Corruption’ came up with their demand after allegations surfaced that the VC gave Tk 1.6 crore to Bangladesh Chhatra League leaders.

The university authorities on Tuesday closed the university for an indefinite period after ruling Awami League-backed BCL activists allegedly assaulted protesters, leaving 36 teachers and students injured.

PM Sheikh Hasina on Thursday at an event at her office said that those who were creating anarchy at universities on corruption allegations against vice-chancellors would have to face legal actions if they failed to prove these.

‘Those who are frequently starting movements against vice-chancellors branding them as corrupt must prove the allegation. If they can prove it actions will be taken against the VCs, otherwise, legal actions will be taken against those making the allegations,’ she warned.

In reaction later on the day the JU protestors at a rally on the campus said that they would continue their agitation against the ‘corrupt’ VC.

They argued that they had complained against the aforementioned corruption to president Abdul Hamid, also chancellor of the university, a month ago in  accordance with the university act.

Samajtantrik Chhatra Front JU unit president Mahathir Mohammad said that they had rejected the authorities’ decision on closing the university and banning any protest ‘to save a corrupt VC and the ruling party’s student front’.

Following the rally, spokesperson for the protesters Rayhan Rhyne told the media that it was government’s duty to investigate the issue and punish the guilty.

‘It’s not our job,’ said Rayhan, a philosophy professor at the university.

In September, he said, JU teachers requested the VC to form an inquiry committee following news reports that she gave money to BCL leaders. 

‘But the VC did not pay heed to our demand, which strengthened our suspicion,’ he said.

A leaked audio conversation of BCL leaders admitting that they got money from the VC also proves that the VC has committed the offence, he added.

Newspapers, including New Age, ran reports in September citing two phone conversations on social media that JU BCL unit president Jewel Rana and general secretary SM Abu Sufian Chanchal admitted that they had received Tk 50 lakh and Tk 25 lakh respectively.

The news reports also said that the unit’s joint secretary Saddam Hossain and vice-president Niamul Hassan Taj also said in the conversations that they had received Tk 25 lakh.

Vice chancellor Farzana Islam, however, denied the claims

Deputy education minister Mohibul Hassan Chowdhoury on Thursday told New Age that the making allegations against the Jahangirnagar University vice-chancellor did not prove her involvement in corruption.

‘They allege that the VC has changed the master plan of the university without consultation. Is it corruption?’ he asked.

‘And again the phone conversations of two people distributed in the social media do not prove that the VC has given money to the Chhatra League leaders while no fund has been disbursed so far for the development work,’ he added.

He suggested that Farzana’s image should not be soiled before the allegations had been proved.

Earlier on Wednesday Mohibul at a press briefing said that he smelt rat in arranging the sit-in before the VC’s residence on Monday instead of lodging formal complaints by November 8 as per education minister’s request when she met some teachers at her residence last week.

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