Dhaka University authorities have no immediate plan to declare schedule of elections to its central students union that expires on March 22.
Authorities of other public universities are not even thinking of holding students union elections even three decades after the last elections were held.
Dhaka University vice-chancellor Md Aktaruzzaman told New Age on Thursday that discussion might continue on the issue. He did not clarify whether the election schedule would be declared soon or not though only two weeks are left to the expiry of the current Dhaka University Central Students Union that took oath on March 23, 2019.
Chittagong University vice-chancellor Shireen Akhter said that university authorities were yet to decide to hold central students’ union election though a move was initiated last year following holding of DUCSU election after 28 years.
‘It’s a difficult task to hold an election after three decades. We would resume discussion for holding the Chittagong University Central Students’ Union Election,’ she said.
Rajshahi University pro-vice-chancellor Ananda Kumar Saha said that they might consider the issue if the student organisations collectively approach them.
‘It’s not so easy to hold a central students’ union after 31 years with participation of over 38,000 students,’ he said.
Jahangirnagar University acting registrar Rahima Kaniz said the university was not thinking of holding any election to its central students union. ‘The last union election was held in 1991,’ she said.
Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology in last December issued a circular stating that students found involved with politics or bullying would be punished. The circular was issued two months after the murder of its student Abrar Fahad in October by activists of Bangladesh Chhatra League.
‘Not only students union election, but also elections to the teachers association and employees’ unions were also remain postponed at the university, said the university’s administrative officer Kazi Enamul Hoque.
Over 30 public universities those started operation after 1980s had never held any central students elections and they had no plan of holding such elections.
All the private universities, on the other hand, discourage students to engage in political activities.
Senior university teachers and incumbent DUCSU leaders , however, said that elected students’ unions help the students nurture through democratic process for bargaining with the authorities for their due rights.
They said that the university authorities who assumed office in the past three decades under political considerations had been showing reluctance to hold the central students’ union elections to enjoy all government benefits by depriving the students from their due rights.
‘The attitude of the university authorities is not only unacceptable but also harmful for the students to grow as individuals having quality of socialisation and capacity of organising others,’ Dhaka University professor emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury said.
‘Allowing the students to have elected union is very much associated with the concept of the university. It’s really regretting that they are not allowed to practice their democratic rights. We had elected students’ union during the British colonial period, the Pakistani occupational period and even in the regimes of military dictators in independent Bangladesh,’ Serajul said.
Abul Kashem Fazlul Haque, a retired professor of Dhaka University, said that the trend at the universities was a reflection of de-politicisation and mentality of capturing all powers centrally by the successive ruling parties in the past three decades since the fall of HM Ershad’s dictatorship in 1990.
‘Politically appointed vice-chancellors and leaders of the student fronts of the parties in power capitalise the mentality of the leaders of ruling parties and supress the democratic processes at the universities to enjoy all government benefits,’ he added.
The ruling party-affiliated teachers and students in collusion with each other supress others for their own interests and they start complaining when another group of teachers and students start dictatorships with the change of power in the national politics, he said.
DUCSU vice-president Nurul Haq Nur and assistant general secretary Md Saddam Hussain told New Age on Saturday that in the last executive committee meeting of the union held on February 8, they demanded the university vice-chancellor and also DUCSU president Md Aktaruzzaman to declare election schedule soon.
‘But, the vice-chancellor said that he would discuss the matter in the next executive meeting,’ Nurul said.
‘I guess the vice-chancellor will discuss the issue only if he gets clearance from the ruling party,’ he added.
DUCSU assistant general secretary, Saddam, also general secretary of the university unit Bangladesh Chhatra League, said that they had been demanding to bring the DUCSU election in the academic calendar for continuing the democratic practice.
Both Nurul and Saddam said that the university authorities had reluctance for continuing the process as they did not want to share their power with the elected students’ union and be accountable to them.
Both of them found uncertainty in holding the next DUCSU election.
Leaders of other student organisations threatened to organise movement at the university if the election schedule was not announced before expiry of the current DUCSU.
‘We are discussing with the like-minded parties for declaring movement,’ said Abu Ryhan, president of the university unit Chhatra Federation.
Jatiatabadi Chhatra Dal general secretary Iqbal Hossain Shyamal demanded to ensure peaceful co-existence of all student organisations at the universities and holding central students’ union elections.
University Grants Commission chairman Kazi Shahidullah said that holding the central students’ elections was the responsibilities of the autonomous public university authorities and the government would not interfere on the issue.
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