18 students tortured at six DU halls in five months, says rights group SAT

A study found no fewer than 18 students of Dhaka University have suffered physical and mental torture in five months at its halls of residence on their return to the campus after one and a half years of closure forced by the coronavirus pandemic.

The leaders and activists of Bangladesh Chhatra League, the student wing of the ruling Awami League, were involved in those incidents of ‘guestroom torture’, the Students Against Torture, a human rights platform based at the university, said in its annual report published on Monday. 

“The residential halls of the university reopened on Oct 5 last year after COVID-19 cases declined. The authorities pledged to prevent torture at guestrooms at that time,” Saleh Uddin Sifat, founder of the platform, said while releasing the report at a media briefing.

“(But) the SAT team reported 10 such incidents at six halls since they reopened but the authorities took nominal actions against three incidents so far,”

The study also reported three incidents of torture on DU journalists in the last year while they were gathering news.  

Out of the 18 residential halls of the university, the most incidents of torture were reported at Sir A F Rahman Hall. At least eight students were abused there, according to the study.

“Three students were subjected to torture at Muktijoddha Ziaur Rahman Hall for teaching them manners, two at Masterda Surja Sen Hall for not attending BCL events and two at university's Bijoy Ekattor Hall for their social media posts. No measures have been taken against the incidents so far.”

However, the SAT added, the university recently expelled three BCL activists from Bijoy Ekattor Hall and one from the Masterda Surja Sen Hall over torture.

Two other students who suffered torture are from the university's Jagannath and Ruqayyah halls.

SAT aims to prevent such human rights violations by publishing bimonthly and annual reports on torture and violence at Dhaka University halls from now on, Sifat said.

He demanded the authorities make rules to prevent such activities.