Former student leaders fear BUET politics ban will fuel Islamism

  • Staff Correspondent,
    Published: 2019-10-12 03:21:04 BdST

Disgruntled students of BUET staging a sit-in infront of the Shaheed Minar on the campus on Friday as protests over the death of their peer Abrar Fahad entered its fifth day. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

Religious extremists may cash in on the ban on political activities at BUET, some former student leaders have said while some others see it as a “temporary solution” to the malice.

Besides the ban, Vice-Chancellor Saiful Islam announced temporary expulsion of 19 students with suspected ties to the murder of student Abrar Fahad in keeping with the demands of protesters on Friday.

The Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology or BUET plunged into turmoil on Monday after Abrar was tortured to death allegedly by leaders of the ruling Awami League’s student front Bangladesh Chhatra League in Sher-e-Bangla Hall on Sunday night.

The BCL operatives reportedly bludgeoned Abrar for his Facebook post protesting against a recent deal between Bangladesh and India.

When the meeting at BUET was under way, Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon spoke against the ban on student politics at a programme in Chattogram.

Menon, who had led the Students’ Union during the movement against the Pakistani regime in the 60s, said: “Politics of murder must be stopped in the educational institutions. But it doesn’t mean student politics should be banned. Amir Hossain Amu, Tofail Ahmed, our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and I – we all had done student politics.”  

“I don’t agree with cutting the head off to cure headache. Fundamentalists will take advantage whenever student politics is banned. It had happened before,” he said.

Speaking to, Awami League Joint General Secretary Jahangir Kabir Nanak welcomed the decisions taken by the BUET administration “to bring the situation under control”.

“But the administration must be alert so that communal forces cannot rear its ugly head due to the ban on student politics,” he added.

Nanak, a former BCL general secretary, pointed out that Prime Minister Hasina is against banning student politics altogether considering the current situation.

The blame for Abrar murder, which led to the ban, should not be laid on student politics, Communist Party of Bangladesh or CPB President Mujahidul Islam Selim believes.

“An incident like Abrar murder happened because of the absence of student politics. The solution lies in freeing student politics from the clutches of the criminalised forces instead of banning student politics,” he said.

The first VP of Dhaka University Central Students’ Union or DUCSU compared the ban to the “cutting head for headache” proverb like Menon did.

Much bigger crimes were being committed in national politics, Selim alleged and asked: “Should we ban national politics then?”

He also alleged student politics was already banned in some form at BUET.

“Students’ Union and other leftist organisations are barred from working there. There is no politics in BUET. What has been there is the ruling party’s fascist control,” Selim said.   

“And now they face a new attack – the attempt to ban student politics, the civil society formula of depoliticisation,” he added. 

Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal or JaSoD President Hasanul Haq Inu does not think the decision to ban politics at BUET will have any effect on student politics at the national level.

Inu had led Chhatra League’s BUET unit in late 60s.

“It appears to me that the BUET authorities have taken the decision to control the situation for the time being. But banning student politics nationally won’t be a democratic decision,” he said.    

It is everyone’s constitutional ad democratic right to do politics at educational institutions, Inu said.

“So, I think BUET has taken the decision temporarily in the context of the recent development. It has no relation with the national-level decisions,” he said.

He, however, added that goons of political parties must to be removed from the educational institutions.

BUET VC Saiful’s announcement on the ban is not clear to Bangladesh JaSoD Presidium Member Mushtuq Husain.

Mushtuq, who had led the DUCSU during the movement to topple HM Ershad, says he supports banning politics of organisations affiliated with political parties.

But he told he was against banning student politics altogether.

When contacted, BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi declined comment on the issue now.

The former general secretary of the party’s student front Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal said the party would formally react to the ban later.