Hunger strike and protests are separate issues, says Zafar Iqbal

Whether the students of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology will continue protests against the vice-chancellor after ending a week-long hunger strike is a decision they will make on their own, says Mohammed Zafar Iqbal.

The former SUST teacher and his wife Prof Yasmeen Haque gave the students water to drink to end their hunger strike at 10.25 am on Wednesday.

“I see the hunger strike and the movement as separate matters. Alright? They [students] don’t need to go on strike to achieve their goals,” said Zafar Iqbal, a popular writer.

“It is not fitting to give up their [students’] lives for the person they are revolting against. If they wish to continue protesting, they can do so in their own volition.”

“They’ve heeded my request and ended the hunger strike. I’ve never felt so glad in my life and I’m grateful to them.”

Mentioning that the steps taken to suppress the movement were “cruel and inhumane”, Prof Yasmeen said, “As many as 27 students ended the fast together. This is my life’s greatest achievement. I’ve not been here for almost three years.”

Earlier, Prof Iqbal and Yasmeen went to the campus on Wednesday and spoke to the protesters demonstrating in front of VC Farid Uddin Ahmed’s residence for about two hours and assured them of working for a solution.

After Prof Iqbal convinced the students to end the strike, they said that their fellows were hospitalised for treatment after falling sick during the demonstration. The students stressed that they want to end the strike together.

Although it was scheduled to end at 8 am, it took longer to bring in others from hospitals to end the strike.

“Before arriving here, I spoke to top government officials. I request them to keep the promises they made. There is no difference between me and the students.

“If they don’t keep their promises, I’ll come to the conclusion that they’ve betrayed me, the students and the progressive people of the country. I hope they stand by their word.”

Prof Iqbal condemned the arrests of five former SUST students on charges of delivering financial backing to the protesters and demanded they be released immediately.

Students had begun protests earlier this month to demand the resignation of Zafrin Ahmed Liza, provost of Shahjalal University’s Begum Sirajunnesa Chowdhury Hall, for misbehaving with students.

Though the provost was eventually removed, students have continued their campaign to press for the resignation of Farid Uddin after police used batons, tear shells and stun grenades to break up a protest, injuring at least 50 people in the process.

Police charged 200-300 unnamed students in a case last week over the protesters’ clash with law enforcers. Later, the students launched a hunger strike to push for the removal of the VC and the dismissal of the case against protesters.

Prof Iqbal also demanded that the cases against these protesters be withdrawn as soon as possible.