It was with extreme anxiety in view of expectations as guardians and Dhaka University batch 1961, which participated in mother language movement in serene academic atmospheres that led in democratic nationalistic spirit to emergence of sovereign Bangladesh in the eastern wing of Pakistan at huge sacrifices, and living with well and woes within this country, looked at the Dhaka University Hall Union and Central Students Union elections on March 11, 2019.
We are happy to see the responses of the students and their organizations set up panels for Hall Unions and Dhaka University Central Students Union (DUCSU) as well as Independents contest election in traditional academic spirit along with studies.
Our expectations on this point and campaign for democratic culture in campus thru columns in national media and civil society initiatives over preceding decades since 1991 have been fulfilled despite discouraging tones of vested quarters. The students came well in time including non -resident attached students braving traffic jam and stood in long queue in respective Hall to vote despite disturbances off and on.
In the morning of 11 March I was very much stunned seeing in TV channel sealed ballot papers in favor of Chhatra League panel and the students of Bangladesh Kuwait Maitree Hall staging the demonstrations, to which Pro- Vice Chancellor Muhammad Samad accepted their allegations.
I know partisan teachers can do that, but still felt teachers would not go to that extent, intolerable! My wife belong to 1967 batch of Dhaka University became concerned at my uneasiness in present health condition and comforted me our grand students would take them to task by the grace of Almighty and nothing to worry.
The Vice Chancellor accepted the demand of the students: removed the Provost and appointed another in the Hall, who conducted election on that day as per revised time schedule. The VC appointed an Inquiry committee as usual. Independents won, Sushmita Dey and Shagufta Busra elected VP and GS respectively. Whatever we saw from live telecasts from satellite channels on that day on different Hall centers in campus are depressing and dismal, against which the students were struggling hard brought changes successfully.
Print media on the following day 12th March carried news of stuffing the ballot boxes, sealed ballot papers, fake voters, indiscipline, postponement and restart of votes, attacks and boycott, etc. My wife commented you cannot expect everything to be alright in one go, which is the common reaction of all guardians and teachers as such without partisan color.
Let the new base reviving tradition of 1950s and 1960s be laid that was lost on return of camp dwellers from the other side of porous borders with India to sovereign Dhaka, Capital of Bangladesh. In post-independence of 48 years only 06 times Hall-DUCSU elections were held, although scheduled to be held annually. Where is the accountability of University and governments including non-party caretaker governments and one eleven caretaker government backed by army? None, cries of guardians and students in wilderness.
Over the years number of students and teachers has increased while the area on establishment of the University reduced. Campus violence, session jam, sexual harassments, teachers used their students in their foreign funded NGOs a post-independence1971 phenomenon and teachers seeking political positions outside the campus, in the name of autonomy under 1973 ordinance forced by them, became common features.
Had Students Union elections been held annually and functioned as usual for extra curriculum activities for conducting literary, cultural, sports, indoor and outdoor games, publication of annual magazine and related democratic pursuits in the interest of people and the country; those hydra headed monsters could not rise in campus breaking the backbone of the nation.
The students were demeaned as student cadre for tender businesses, muscles of parties, land grabbing, occupy Halls distribute seats, extortion and terrorism; when University administration teacher leaders were on lookers.
This year number of students is about 43 thousand students to vote for 25 posts of DUCSU and 13 posts in each of 18 Halls of University. It is really unfortunate University administration concerned teachers responsible for conducting election ensure proper casting of votes by their students who're to get equal treatment from them have not received the same!
It is not unexpected as the teachers are proud of their annual DUTA election regularly, irrespective of regime changes, held work stoppage program for grade and salary in spite of Prime Minister's advice, did not mind for Student Union election till the Supreme Court passed the verdict for holding Students Union election on a writ filed in this regard. Students continued to struggle throughout the day and came out successful in the democratic exercise 2019, a historic event indeed.
At the end of the day, the VC declared the result at Senate Building. Nurul Haq Nur won as VP of DUCSU, candidate of Bangladesh General Students Right Protection Council, also known as leader of quota reform movement, defeated Students League candidate.
It aroused passions, and then subsided and two candidates embraced each other. Independents won post of VP in 6 Halls and all posts in Shamsunnahar Hall. It shows those who were oppressed for upholding rights of students were elected. Students said good bye to fronts of parties, who deserve our praise and wish new leaderships' success in future. We urge leaders of political parties not to indulge in students democratic activities and mind their own business.
The students are all aware vindicate their right to vote as well as not to fall in any trap to keep Hall Union and DUCSU in abeyance. University administration enjoying autonomy should take note of it and extend all out help to their students.
It should be held annually as provided in law and tradition; devoted teachers, guardians and students would have to remain alert so that those staying within this country and their progeny not settled abroad are not deprived of high academic excellence now destined to survive, Insha'Allah.
The writer is an economist,
advocate and columnist.
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