Published:  04:38 AM, 12 October 2019

BUET bans student politics

Expels 19 students over Abrar killing; VC apologizes

BUET bans student politics BUET Vice-Chancellor Prof Saiful Islam speaking at a meeting with a delegation of his students at the university's auditorium in the city on Friday. -Zahidul Islam

Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) has decided to ban all types of political activities on its campus and temporarily expelled 19 students allegedly involved in the murder of Abrar Fahad accepting the demands of agitating students.

The decision was announced at a meeting between BUET Vice Chancellor Prof Saiful Islam and a student delegation at the university's auditorium on Friday afternoon following five days of demonstrations on the campus.

Prof Saiful admitted "some lacking" on his part in acting swiftly after Abrar was murdered. "I was found lacking. Being a father figure, I beg your mercy." He said he received the 19 demands raised by the protesters and promised to meet all of them.

The vice chancellor said the 19 accused in the Abrar murder case were suspended temporarily following information gathered from security camera footage. "And there will be no organizational politics at BUET," he announced.

Prof Saiful said BUET will bear the cost of the legal battle for ensuring justice for Abrar and financially compensate his family. "We will write to the government for a quick completion of the trial."

He announced that ragging will end at BUET. The meeting was chaired by Acting Registrar Saidur Rahman, attended, among others by Student Welfare Director Mizanur Rahman, Teachers' Association President AKM Masud and deans of some faculties.

Students launched protests on Monday after Abrar was tortured to death allegedly by leaders and activists of Bangladesh Chhatra League, the student front of the ruling Awami League, in Sher-e-Bangla Hall in the early hours of Monday.

The BCL men reportedly beat Abrar for his Facebook post criticizing recent deals between Bangladesh and India during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to New Delhi.

The protesters demanded capital punishment for the killers, identification and expulsion of the killers from the university, fast-tracked trial in a tribunal, publication of a copy of the charge-sheet in the case, and a ban on organisation-based politics in the university.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said she is averse to the idea of banning politics in educational institutions altogether, but added BUET can separately enforce such a ban like many other institutions have.

The others of the protesters' 19-point charter of demand included explanation of the VC's absence for 39 hours after the incident, statement of the teacher in charge of the DSW, expulsion of those involved in torturing students in the name of "ragging" and "suppressing dissent".

The rest of the demands were withdrawal of Sher-e-Bangla Hall provost for his silence over the incidents of driving students out using political powers and his failure to ensure student security, payment of expenses for the legal battle and compensation for Abrar's family by the administration, and disclosure of all previous incidents of violence and the establishment of a common platform to regularly review complaints and institute immediate measures.

Some of the demands, including resignation of the hall provost, have already been met. Meanwhile, the demonstrators have set five conditions to allow admission tests scheduled for October 14 after a three-hour long meeting with Vice-Chancellor Prof Saiful Islam on Friday.

The five conditions are:Temporary expulsion of everyone with alleged involvement in Abrar murder case. Those who will be formally charged will have to be expelled permanently and the administration must give the assurance in a notice.The notice will contain the assurance that the BUET administration will bear the cost of the legal battle for justice for Abrar and compensate his family financially.

Those residing in the halls of residence illegally will have to be removed after banning organisational politics. The offices of the political student organisations will have to be sealed off.

A notice will have to be issued on the steps to be taken by the administration if any student gets involved in organisational activities in future or torture others. The notice will mention that these issues will be included in the university's ordinance. A committee will be formed to oversee these activities and this point on the committee will be mentioned in the notice.

 A common platform on BUET's BIIS account be opened so that students can publish previous incidents of torture, harassment and ragging. The platform will remain open for students to report such incident in the future. This move will be announced in a notice.

 A notice ensuring that security cameras will be set up on both sides of each floor of the residential halls and the videos will be monitored round the clock.

Police have so far arrested 18 students, including 14 BCL leaders out of 19 named in the Abrar murder case.VC Saiful, however, continued to face intense criticisms for his "failure" to act quickly following Abrar's murder after failing to ensure safety of Abrar and other victims of torture by BCL leaders.

He faced the protesters' wrath when he came to the campus 39 hours after the incident on Tuesday.The demonstrators laid a siege to his office for over four hours even though he agreed to their demands "in principle".He also faced public anger again when he went to meet Abrar's family in Kushtia the following day. Angry residents of the area barred him from visiting Abrar's home.

The associations of BUET's teachers and alumni have demanded his resignation for his "failure" to perform his duties.
On Thursday, the protesters demanded a meeting with him and set a Friday deadline threatening to lock up the offices until the demands are met.

Demand for banning student politics on campus got strong in 2992 after a BUET student - Sabekunnesa Sony - was killed in a gunfight between two groups of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal, the student front of BNP, in 2992. An expert committee on reforms in the education sector also suggested banning or at least suspending campus politics.

The 1962 ordinance under which BUET operates does not endorse student politics on the university campus. Article 16 of the statute stipulates that no student organization can operate on the campus without the written permission of the Student Welfare Director, except for hall student unions. The ordinance even restricts holding of meetings and other similar programs on the campus.

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