Bangladesh government, universities must break culture of impunity of Chhatra League

Published: 00:00, Jan 26,2020 | Updated: 22:50, Jan 25,2020


LEADERS and activists of the Chhatra League, the student wing of the ruling Awami League, have started making the headlines again as they started prowling university campuses again. In the latest such incident, a series of attacks by one faction of Chhatra League activists on another faction in the University of Chittagong left at least five wounded on January 22. One of the factions enforced a strike on the campus the next day and stopped the shuttle train services between the university and the port city. On the night past January 21, Chhatra League leaders and activists tortured four students in the guest room of the Sergeant Zahurul Haque Hall in the University of Dhaka for about two hours saying that the four were Islami Chhatra Shibir activists. This appears to have been déjà vu of Abrar Fahad torture, but for the death, in a room of a hall of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology on October 7, 2019 in which Abrar died. On January 21, at least 20 Chhatra League activists were wounded in an infighting of the Awami League’s student wing on the Islamic University campus in Kushtia.

In almost all such cases, an implicit support, even if initially, for the Chhatra League activists from the police or the university administration has been evident. In the Chittagong University case, the police picked up 20 Chhatra League activists from two halls of residence the next night and released them all on undertaking as no case was filed. In the incident in Dhaka University, in less than four months of the BUET incident of murder in a similar incident, the university and hall administrations handed over the four victims to the police the next day and the police are reported to have released them as their investigation has the four students not connected to Islami Chhatra Shibir. In the Islamic University case, the police, however, arrested the university unit Chhatra League’s general secretary in a case filed against 11 leaders by an activist of the organisation that day. While the University of Dhaka set up a committee to investigate the incident that happened there, the central Chhatra League is reported to have set up a committee on the Islamic University incident, to be deciding on a committee on the Chittagong University incident and to be acting on the action of the university authorities in the Dhaka University incident. It is not difficult to guess what the Chhatra League would do. But the police and the university administration appear to have been lenient towards the Chhatra League as the police investigated the Islami Chhatra Shibir link of the four students of the Dhaka University and arrested no one as the university administration filed no case.

All this suggests that proctors and provosts have failed in their job of keeping the universities safe for students in the halls or outside on the campus. After the Abrar murder in the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, such an attitude of both the university administration and the police is dangerous. While repeated assurances from the Awami League to rein the Chhatra League have so far almost failed, the universities must be stringent enough to keep students and the universities safe from Chhatra League violence.

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