THE attacks that the Chhatra League, the student wing of the ruling Awami League — aided by Muktijuddha Mancha, which is led by a former vice-president of the Chhatra League — is reported to have carried out on the office of the Dhaka University Central Students’ Union, where the union’s vice-president Nurul Huq Nur was holding a meeting with students of the University of Dhaka and other educational institutions on Sunday, suggest that the ruling party’s student wing has become a marauding organisation, ready to engage in violence at no provocation. At least 40 of the students are reported to have been severely wounded in the head, chest and eyes, with some continuously vomiting, and cared for in Dhaka Medical College Hospital. This is for the ninth time the DUCSU vice-president has been attacked since his election in March — this time for being critical of autocratic government action and the last time for publicly criticising India’s Hindutvavadi authoritarianism — and this is the second attack on student rights campaigners in a week. In what has come about, it appears that the Chhatra League has already long earned the notoriety that the National Student Federation, or NSF, created in the 1960s by Abdul Monem Khan, a Muslim League leader and the then governor of East Pakistan, had by way of attacking all progressive and liberal movements for a regional autonomy, even centring on the struggle for the national independence, that time.
While the police could not arrest any of the attackers on the day — a couple of activists of Muktijuddha Mancha said to be composed of Chhatra League activists were, however, arrested the next day — a number of politicians, including ranking leaders of the Awami League, visited the wounded in hospital in a stark display of duplicity as it was the prime responsibility of the government leaders to have first ensured that the attackers were brought to justice. The intolerance of the Chhatra League or pro-government forces of dissenting voice, presumed to have trickled down from the Awami League, has reached such a pass that some expatriate Bangladeshis who described themselves as supporters of the Awami League disrupted the launch of a book, Voting in a Hybrid Regime: Explaining the 2018 Bangladeshi Election, by Professor Ali Riaz, the inaugural recipient of the Thomas E Eimermann professorship, at the South Asia Institute of the Heidelberg University in Germany on December 7, raising objection to the contents of the book and claiming that Bangladesh enjoys democracy. The NSF thugs in the 1960s beat up Professor Abu Mahmud. When Monem Khan’s myrmidons, created to counter the nationalist students’ organisations of the time, were carrying out attacks one after another during the regime of the dictator Ayub Khan, there had also been talks about development without democracy, a likeness of which is often heard these days.
While the attacks at hand were taking place on Sunday, the Dhaka University proctor reached the DUCSU office late and the police seek to say that they received no complaints which stopped them from taking any action. The police statement beats logic as they stepped in with apparently no call from the university authorities on many occasions in the past as does the inaction of the university authorities, lending credence to the popular perception that such inaction, both on part of the police and university authorities, was deliberate and born out of political motives. While it is high time that the Awami League reined in the Chhatra League, it is also time the police and the university authorities did some introspection to establish the reason for their existence.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Editorial