A platform of general students of University of Dhaka - Seat is My Right - organised a four-day long art exhibition on ganaroom, guestroom, ragging culture and violence on campus. The artworks condemn such culture in the universities and expose how this culture of fear has destroyed students, both mentally and physically. Returning from the exhibition, writes Sazid Ahamed Dipto
THE murder of a second year student of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology during an incident of ragging has prompted different concerned bodies to form protests from their own space. Similarly, four-day long photo exhibition was inaugurated in front of the arts building at University of Dhaka on Saturday November 16. ‘Seat is My Right’ is a platform of general students who organised the exhibition which continued till November 19.
Power practice and dominance of ruling political party student wing has created a culture of fear in the campus. They have turned a four-seat room into a crowded room putting 30 to 40 students almost in all the male residential halls of public universities. They have forced general students to work for their political party. Newly admitted students might never get their desirable seats in the residential hall as Bangladesh Chhatra League leaders are using their power on innocent fresher. Many fresher are confronting numerous issues regarding accommodation as they failed to get the seat in the hall.
The students often face lack of space for study and they cannot sleep well in these rooms. The situation has worsened over the years as ruling party-backed students of successive regimes control the allotment of seats at the residential halls instead of the house tutors.
In Ruqayyah Hall of DU, 50 students are forced to live in a room where the room can hardly accommodate 15 students. As many of them have come from outside of Dhaka, after a certain time they become desperate for their seats in the hall. Undoubtedly BCL leaders are liable for shattering these meritorious students’ dreams. Even the leaders order general students to do illicit activities on campus right after they get enrolled in their political organisation. First year students were forced to attend political programmes and absence from programmes was considered a punishable offence, general students alleged.
A first year student at DU’s education and research who is a resident of Sir A F Rahman Hall said that he lost his interest in study as he was forced to attend political programmes in and outside the campus. Some student claimed that they had been sleeping on the floor of a hall for more than a year and with the favour of BCL members they found a seat after all. Sometimes the relatives of BCL leaders stay in the hall and there is nothing left to say as general student get scared of their vicious acts. Needless to say, BCL members convey more power than the house tutors or provosts in the residential halls.
According to the Dhaka University order 1973, only the hall authorities have the power to allot rooms to the resident students and a non-resident student can stay at the hall after having permission from the hall provost.
Dhaka University has a total of 21 dorms; five of them are for female students, with the capacity of 16,180 seats against a total of 37,000 students that study at the university at any given time, according to media reports.
Undoubtedly fresher deserve their seats as they have struggled for so long to get admission in this institution. Even ensuring their rights has always been a liability for university authority. Considering this state of uncertainty, general students urge authority to take effective steps for resolving these issues. What actually happens to this so called ‘oxford of east’ is something that we cannot overlook.
Besides the accommodation issue, general students are going through unendurable suffering throughout their studentship in DU for the ruling party political activists. Within seven years, 287 general students have been roughly tortured and harassed at the residential halls in the university. There are numerous cases showing that general students have been abused or tortured in the halls by BCL leaders. In 2016, Hafizur Molla, a first year student of DU marketing department, died of typhoid and pneumonia as he was forced to stay overnight at the balcony of Salimullah Muslim Hall along with his other inmates in cold weather by a BCL leader. Later one of his friends alleged that, Hafizur died because of negligence of the university authority and torture by BCL activist. And when Hafizur’s health condition deteriorated, he left the hall for his home at Faridpur. While shifting to Dhaka for a better treatment, he lost his life in front of his parents.
It is a common courtesy to return someone’s belongings after borrowing them. However, some BCL activists of DU believe that such practice is not for them. Ehsan Rafiq, a second year student at DU’s disaster management and science department, lent his calculator to BCL’s assistant secretary of Salimullah Muslim Hall Omar Faruk in the late 2017. When Ehsan went to Omar in February 2018, after having repeatedly asked for returning the calculator, all he got were severe beatings. A number of BCL goons beat Ehsan with metal rods and sticks till he lost his consciousness. He was more likely to lose his right eye for being beaten several times.
The platform of ‘Seat is My Right’ is working to offer a better student life to the fresher. They shed light on how fresher and general students are being tortured by the political activist. This platform demands an end to this culture of torture and fear.
Stating the accommodation crisis of the University, Armanul Hoque, a spokesperson of the platform said that BCL leaders forced students to attend political programs in exchange of staying in the halls. Their six-point demand includes proper distribution of seat from the first year by the administration, an end to the torture cell called ‘guest room’ culture, no political intervention in the distribution of seats and those who grabbed seat illegally have to leave the halls.
Pointing to the previous years’ illegal seat distribution by political parties, Umama Fatema, another member of this platform told New Age Youth, ruling party-backed students are taking advantages of the first year students by exploiting them for their political favour. Through this platform we just want to see the end of political intervention in seat distribution.
In early October, several first year students of DU gave an ultimatum to the vice-chancellor of the university Md Akhtaruzzaman to solve the ongoing accommodation crisis in the residential dormitories within 15 days. The students also said that they would take shelter at the VC’s residence if he failed to find a solution for the crisis. It takes no time to recognise that students have been struggling for their rights for so long.
Having so many issues around, students recognised that the situation is getting worse day by day. The university authorities fail to stop outsiders from staying in the DU residential halls illegally.
If this crisis continues to break fresher’s dream in the university, then we might no longer find skilled and intellectual minds here. In this darkest time, the authorities should come forward to solve these issues. A proper environment to study and a suitable place to live should be ensured in the university students.
Expressing solidarity with the programme, Tanzimuddin Khan and Abdul Mannan, both associate professors of DU, Rahnuma Ahmed, former professor of Jahangirnagar Univerisity, Bangladesh Students Federation president Golam Mostofa and general secretary Jahid Sujon were present in the photo exhibition.
Sazid Ahamed Dipto is a student of Stamford University and an intern with New Age Youth
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