BCL atrocities | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 13, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 13, 2010

BCL atrocities

On the hunt? Photo: Iqbal Ahmed/ DrikNews

PRIME Minister Sheikh Hasina has once again warned the leaders and activists of the Bangladesh Chhattra League (BCL) that extortion and tender grabbing would not be tolerated. One has lost count of the number of warnings the premier has given the BCL.
BCL men started taking control of tender-related activities in government offices after the AL-led grand alliance came to power. A BCL leader was killed in a clash between BCL and Juba League over submission of tender at Panchagar on April 8, just 5 days after the prime minister warned against BCL involvement in tender grabbing.
Initially, BCL violently ousted their opponents from the campuses of public universities and colleges. Subsequently, they forayed into factional feuds over supremacy, extortion, tender grabbing and admission trade, disturbing the peace and vitiating the academic atmosphere across the country.
The atrocities of the BCL became so unbearable that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina chose to step down from the post of BCL's ideological chief in the hope that it would send a message to the student front to rectify itself. Unfortunately, it did not have the desired impact on the BCL.
Months ago, the prime minister expressed her determination to deal strictly with the rampaging student front of her party and instructed the organising secretaries of the party to strictly monitor their activities and recommend actions to the party hierarchy. This step also failed to tackle the rowdy BCL elements.
A BCL activist assaulted a female student at Rajshahi on April 1 when she spurned his proposal for love. The delinquent was subsequently expelled from the BCL and detained by the police, but was released two hours later. In another incident on April 4, a BCL activist humiliated a married female student of Jagannath University in full public view, with the police watching as mute spectators.
BCL activists kept the VC of Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences University confined at his residence on April 3 and 4. The activists of BCL confined the principal of Kushtia Government College in his room on April 6 as he refused to give a recommendation letter for an arrested BCL leader to get his bail. BCL President Abu Tayob Badsha was arrested with firearms during a factional clash of the BCL in the college campus on February 15.
The BCL cadres of the Rajshahi University unit beat up the proctor and his two assistants, a hall provost and two house tutors in front of police, and also vandalised the proctor's office and hall rooms on April 7 as he had allowed police to raid a hall to pick up illegal residents without the permission of BCL.
BCL, through its vicious involvement in the admission process, has reportedly minted more than Tk.1 crore from three colleges of the capital. Some of the colleges had to stop admission because BCL demanded for quota for political admission.
What the BCL has been doing at different educational institutions across the country is not just a breach of organisational discipline but a criminal offence as well. Admittedly, there have been some instances of expulsion of BCL leaders and activists, but hardly has there been any legal action against the offenders.
Absence of appropriate legal action appears to have generated a sense of impunity among the rowdy BCL elements to such extent that they no longer seem to be perturbed by the stern warnings of the AL leadership, including those of the prime minister herself.
A little ray of hope for an effective check of BCL atrocities was generated following a tough line taken by the prime minister in April last year. Some rowdy BCL elements were also arrested. But no measures have yet been able to dissuade the BCL men from creating violence and indulging in extortion and tender grabbing.
The PM has also categorically said that there is no place for "uncles" and "Adu bhais" in BCL. She said this at a meeting with local MPs and leaders of the ruling alliance held recently in Sylhet. People will surely appreciate the move to free the BCL from extortionists, tender grabbers as well as "uncles" and "Adu bhais."
The most frustrating part of student politics is that the student wings of the political parties are constituted mostly with non-students. BNP has formed a new committee of the Dhaka University wing of the JCD, which includes not only many non-students but also some persons of questionable reputation.
The president of JCD is 47 years old and the general secretary is 42. They had completed their education many years ago and are now full-time businessmen. At least 150 out of 171 members of the JCD central committee are non-students.
There are also many elderly non-students in the BCL committees, though it is laid down in Article 5(ka) of its constitution that anyone exceeding 27 years will not be able to become a BCL committee member. Student politics has thus been criminalised with inclusion of non-students, and is clearly no longer what it used to be.
Given the increasing ferocity and frequency of the BCL atrocities, the prime minister has once again warned them. Considering the record of the 14 months of this government, the people are not likely to believe that warnings without purposeful actions will yield the desired result. Only severe punishment will sent out the message that extortion, tender grabbing and other misdeeds will not be tolerated.
Of course, not all the BCL men are involved in criminal activities; only a handful of them resort to criminality. Wiping out these rowdy elements and taking action against them according to the law is not a difficult task. Time is really running out fast for the AL to act decisively for flushing out the bad blood from the once proud student organisation --Chhatra League.
It is a new thing in student politics that the student wing of the ruling party establishes control over all public universities and colleges with every political changeover. The JCD, the student front of BNP, and the followers of Shibir, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, were not less violent in any way than the BCL, and had unleashed a reign of lawlessness in the educational institutions across the country during the tenure of BNP-led four-party alliance government.
The BCL men, at least a huge number of them, have already done enough to perturb the people. Unless the AL leadership goes all out to wipe out the rowdy elements in the BCL, it may have to pay a high price for it.

A.N.M. Nurul Haque is a columnist of The Daily Star.

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