Lucky Akter is the current central executive member of Bangladesh krishak Samity and former president of Bangladesh Students’ Union. She thinks that level playing field should not only exist in political arena, but there in all aspect of life. During an interview with Nahid Riyasad, she shares her thinking about contemporary political issues and the upcoming national polls with New Age Youth.
New Age: How did you get involved in students’ politics? Who was your inspiration?
Lucky Akter: I was in the third batch of English in Jagannath University JnU, during 2008-09. After spending couple of months in the campus, along with some likeminded young people started pondering over different problems students have to face during their tertiary level education. Starting point was forming a number of protests demanding residential halls, because, a public university without dormitories is not acceptable. During that time, I, along with some of friends of 3rd batch, became a regular face in different student related movements in our campus, to name a few – demanding food in reasonable prices in canteen, protesting at ruling party students’ wing’s tendency of free dining at canteen, protesting privatisation agendas as well as initiating clubs and different other political and cultural activities. Among the progressive thinking quarters, JnU gained popularity as a campus of protests and resistance. As I played a vital role in 2012’s movement against illogical development fee, with seven other student leaders had to face show cause notice from the university authority.
With the turn of time, I realised that it is politics that interests me most and I joined Bangladesh Students’ Union. There were reasons for choosing them as my primary platform. During the campus days, the leftist students’ organisations were the most trusted entity that raised voice for demands of general students. The courage of leftist student politicians, their valour even on the face of assaults immensely inspired me.
Within six months of joining there, I entered the central committee as social welfare secretary as well as organising secretary for JnU chapter.
New Age: Would you like to share your thoughts about Pritilata Brigade? How was the idea fermented, and later translated into a reality?
Lucky Akter: Women in Bangladesh have come a long way already; our major income generating sector readymade garment is actually run by a large female workforce. Also, women are contributing equally in corporate and industrial sector. However, the condition of women has little changed as they are not free, yet. In order to enable women to fend for themselves, Bangladesh Students’ Union initiated a self-defense programme for women naming Pritilata Brigade. The initial response, during the 2016 was brilliant and the programme is still running even after two years.
New Age: As you were involved in Gonojagoron Mancha, how do you asses government’s response towards that movement and the two recent students’ movement – quota reforms and road safety?
Lucky Akter: Gonojagoron Mancha had a completely different political as well as social dynamics than the two most recent youth movements. But the common thing among these movements is demanding justice. The first one encompasses a rather large social issue and demanded justice that had been long overdue. On the other hand, the two recent also dealt with unavoidable social issues, however, trial of war criminals was just a larger demand. And I think, 2013 made the long awaited push that our youths needed to revive their historical role against all social odds. We have to keep this in mind that the government, no matter who is in the power, would invest their entire power to control and manipulate any movement against the authority and this happened in case of Gonojagoron Mancha as well as in quota reforms and road safety movement. Government accorded few demands of Gonojagoron, but they were too scared of its continuity. In the case of all these three movements, the ruling party students’ wing showed their support at a particular stage and tried to dismantle it at another stage.
For quota reforms movement, the demand of a reform was logical, however, the government entirely abolished the quota system in civil service ultimately depriving national minority, women, physically challenged and also freedom fighters who are not well off. Those who are deprived from the decision of quota abolishment, are portrayed as hostile. The road safety movement was more than justifiable because our entire communication sector is taken hostage by a handful of people, who are nothing short of mafia syndicate. Under this circumstance, that movement also shared a larger interest of the people. Government never faced such teen-age uprising and such a vast one without a central leadership that the earlier two had. So, to dismantle the teen revolt they had to adopt the newest machinery of repression.
New Age: As of Gonojagoron Mancha, many critics argued that this platform has legitimised and normalised, at least socially, a process of mob justice. The recent string of killing in the name of anti-drug drive is an example. How do you see this connection?
Lucky Akter: I have to completely disagree with this. The Gonojagoron Mancha was a platform which advocated capital punishment for top war criminals through trial. And citizens of a country have every right to demand the highest punishment that is inscribed in its constitution against the deeds of mass killing and rape. Interpreting this as the justification of extra judicial killing or mob justice is completely illogical and to some extent identical to the propaganda of the campaigners of war criminals. As I often travel to rural areas for organisational purpose, I have found that people have a particular distaste towards extra judicial killing.
An honest criticism cannot confuse the role of government against extremism or drug with that of any protest group raising voice against these odds. And more importantly, government plays a dual role to deal with the same issue. At one hand, the government has indirectly patronised extremism by condescending fundamental politics on the other they have waged war on terror project.
New Age: In two of the most recent youth movement, students’ voices were suppressed using brutal forces. Do you think it will impact future participation in such movements?
Lucky Akter: I am an extremely optimistic person. During my university days, I have seen protesters were demolished through brutal forces of state and they reunite and reorganise again and again to stand in resistance. And at the end of the day, dismantling, defaming or debilitating any just cause would not allow the government any ultimate favour. In 2008 this government had come into the power with an overwhelming support from youths and in the course of the time they lost it completely.
Ordinary people are fuming about the strong grasp of the government. Even after the infamous Digital Security Act 2018, people are still talking. In this regard, I want to say that no number of state violence and government harassment will be able to stop resistance from the young quarters of the population.
New Age: How hopeful are you about a free, fair and inclusive election? In your thoughts, what would be the young generation’s role for ensuring a democratic poll?
Lucky Akter: Youths have not accepted the questionable election through which the ruling party acquired power for this term. They have not forgotten the subsequent landslide corruption in economic institutions as well as large scale construction projects. Moreover, the intoxicating presence of ruling party student wing in public universities has enraged ordinary students to their limit. And government’s treatments of them in the last two movements are indicating that the youths will play an important role in any free and fair election. But student youths are not likely to play an active role in the politics because they are deprived of practicing in electoral process within the campus for decades. A long cease to students’ union elections blocked the pipeline of future leaders who could play a great role in protecting the democratic process.
By the way, the level playing field that other parties are talking about is a rather problematic factor. This does not mean that only opposition will be able to voice their demands. A proper level playing field would be ensuring proper and equal rights to every sector of population –women, national minority and economically marginalised people.
New Age: What are your plans with your political career? Where do you see yourself in the future?
Lucky Akter: I believe that politics is the strongest apparatus to bring a positive change. In this regard, I hope to be in this field and see myself in the parliament in the due course of time. In the meantime, I am preparing myself for the big task ahead. I hope to bring change in the political culture of this country, that culture which allows mafia leaders to be in the law making position. And to bring such cultural change in the psyche of the people, strengthening the progressive political forces would be the best solution.
Nahid Riyasad is a member of the New Age Youth team
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