The recent gruesome killing of Abrar Fahad, a student of Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology (BUET), by the activists and leaders of Bangladesh Chhatra League, the student wing of the ruling party Awami League, has been the talk of the country. The incident triggered a firestorm of protests on university campuses across the country. Consequently, the BUET authority has banned all the political activities on the campus. Simultaneously the students demanded a ban on student politics in Bangladesh as well. The demand for banning politics on campuses has become a burning issue as a result of violent activities of different partisan student organizations.
None can deny the fact that Bangladesh does have a proud history of student politics. From Language movement (1952) to Mass uprising (1990), students have struggled for the country as a vanguard. Student politics has undergone a dramatic change since 1990, for worse. The political parties, especially the ruling parties, turn the student activists into pawns for the party’s gains. After 1990s, the legacies of partisan student politics are torture, beaten to death, murder, misuse of power, oppression, ragging, sexual harassment, academic days loss, forcibly joining in party meeting and procession, Yaba business in the dormitories, extortion, tender manipulation, mugging within and outside campuses, violent and unrest situation as well as drug addiction! A report byThe Daily Star counts at least 151 incidents of killings since independence. According to daily newspaper, The Porthom Alo counts between 2009 and 2014, at least 54 people were killed by the BCL, 39 of them of their own. The nature of these killings has taken a horrible turn in the past decade since the current Awami League government came into power and its student wing has enjoyed unlimited power and carte blanche impunitythroughout the entire country.
The present trend and nature of partisan student politics demonstrate that partisan student organizations work for their own political partiesand personal gains rather than working in favor of general students’ interests and national issues. They have been used to capture the campuses and thrash the opposition student activists and have been unleashed against non-partisan students and youth movements. Theykeep their political hegemony over the residential hall of educational institutions.The ruling party’s student wing cannot stand against their party’s decision and obliged to implement mother organization’s agenda and are to work according to the order of the political party. Regrettably,this submission is also reflected in terms of national issues and general students’ interests.Since the inception of this country, students have been used many times by almost all major political parties and their leaders for their own petty interests. In this situation, the real motive and the exercise of healthy student politics turn into vain and thus personal gains and advantages become the center point of student politics.
So, the question is whether the student politics should be banned or not?
It might be wise that we should demand a ban for partisan student politics, not entire student politics. We should not consider the student politics as current dirty and intoxicated partisan student politics. Student politics needs to be separated from mainstream politics and be mainly limited to the benefits of the students and thus only regular students would be permitted to do politics on the campus. The teachers should also abstain themselves from conventional politics on the campus. The student politics framework would be like Dhaka University Central Student Union (DUCSU) and elected representatives of the general students will work for the betterment of the students and will help the university administration to ensure a peaceful environment on the campuses. Student unions will function for their own interests, and not for any political party.
In the emergencies and crisis moments of Bangladesh, there is no absolute and sole contribution of the partisan student organization. If we go back and look at a panorama view on history, we find a lot of movements led by the non-partisan political student organizations that are united regarding national interest and fight for the country. In 1952, the language movement was largely organized and led by general and non-political student forum or non-partisan student organizations beyond existing part is an student political groups. In the mass upsurge of 1969, ‘Student Action Committee’ and ‘Democratic Action Committee’ were formed in the spirit of nationalism. The organizations mentioned above were not directly organized and supported by existing political student wings rather were formed as general student platforms that led to successful 1969 mass upsurge for the sole interest of the nation. Similarly, in 1970, the formation of ‘Sadhin Bangla Chhatra Songram Parishad’ was non-partisan which contributed to the independence of Bangladesh. We find many witnesses in the history of Bangladesh that general students, induced by patriotism, struggled with unity for the country induced regardless of their political identity and affiliation.
We can recall the two successful movements of Bangladesh ‘Quota Reform Movement’ and ‘Road Safety Movement’ in 2018. Those movements were non-partisan and had no partisan affiliation or linkage which expectedly achieved high acceptability and supports from all walks of students and people. Deplorably, the ruling party student wing stood against those movements rather standing on behalf of general students.
Finally, from history to present, we observe that the students and all walks of the people of Bangladesh have always been united in national emergencies and crisis moments. Present dirty and intoxicated partisan student politics has been experienced and they mostly ignored to face emergency and crisis moments of the country. It is high time to take pragmatic measures against the destructive partisan student politics for ensuring a peaceful environment in the educational institutions. The government and universities’ administration should take necessary steps to create a democratic environment for student politicsand declareimmediately to hold ‘Student Union Election’ in every college and university.