The students had only demanded fair prices of paddy for farmers, but the university authorities think it was anti-government activities.
In an unprecedented move, authorities of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University in Gopalganj have issued show-cause notices to 14 students for “carrying anti-government and anti-administration placards and festoons” during a protest.
Rathindranath Bappi, who studies international relations, is one of them.
He said they were shocked to see the low prices of paddy this Boro season. So they formed a human chain in front of the university gate on May 16 to demand better prices for farmers.
“We didn’t carry any anti-government placards. We just urged the government to ensure fair prices for paddy. Still, we will send our replies within the deadline because we respect our authorities.”
The notice, signed by Registrar Prof Nuruddin Ahmed, was issued on May 30.
“Your involvement has been found in carrying anti-government and anti-administration placards and festoons and delivering provocative speeches … without permission of the administration to destabilise the academic atmosphere of the university, which is a heinous act and it goes against the discipline of the university.
“You are therefore asked to reply in writing in seven working days upon receiving the notice as to why punitive actions shall not be taken against you,” it said.
Contacted, Dhaka University’s Mass Communication and Journalism department’s Associate Professor Fahmidul Haq said students and teachers of all the public universities should be able to exercise their right to be vocal for just demands.
“I don’t find anything anti-government here. The students only demanded fair prices for paddy. We often see authorities of some public universities do things overenthusiastically to prove their loyalty to certain political parties. This is one such example.”
SM Abdullah Kafi, a third-year law student, said they formed the human chain because it was a national issue.
“But we didn’t use any anti-government placards. Rather, our placards said: ‘Ensure fair price for crops’; ‘Buy corps directly from farmers’ and so on.”
Registrar Nuruddin Ahmed said he did not know anything about the protest or the placards and that he only followed the directives of the university’s disciplinary board.
Contacted, Ashiquzzaman Bhuiyan, proctor and a member of the disciplinary board, said they issued the notice to the students for forming the human chain “without taking their permission and carrying anti-government placards”.
To give an example of anti-government activities, he said, “One placard read: The throne will burn if crops burn.”
Supreme Court lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua said the notice was “offensive”.
“It shows the university authorities have forgotten their responsibilities.”
Every citizen has a right to protest, he said, adding, “Those who see a student protest demanding fair prices of rice as an anti-state activity have become essentially blind. This notice makes that very clear.”
[Our Faridpur correspondent contributed to the story.]