Bangladesh Chhatra League men yesterday attacked dozens of Dhaka University students who were demonstrating in front of the vice-chancellor's office to press home a four-point demand, including expulsion of some BCL leaders for “harassing” female students a few days ago.
At least 50 students and two campus-based journalists were injured in the second such attack by the pro-Awami League student body in just eight days.
BCL General Secretary SM Jakir Hossain and its DU unit President Abid Al Hasan led the attack to “rescue” DU VC Prof Akhtaruzzaman, who was confined for around an hour in front of his office at the Registrar Building, demonstrators said.
Of the injured, 24 took treatment at Dhaka Medical College Hospital. One sustained brain injuries while three to four might have to be admitted there, said Sanaul Hoque Sarker, a doctor at the DMCH.
Several hundred BCL activists from almost all hall units and from other institutions took part in the attack, blocking all three gates of the building and beating up students at random with iron rods, cricket stumps and sticks, witnesses said.
Female BCL activists were seen beating up female students in different rooms.
"They surrounded us and attacked us from all sides without giving us any scope to speak," said Tajwar Mahmid Siam, a third-year student of mass communication and journalism.
However, BCL President Saifur Rahman Sohag denied that they swooped on agitating students.
“On the contrary, the demonstrators attacked us when we went to rescue the vice-chancellor,” he told a press briefing last night at the Madhur Canteen.
The BCL also said leaders of different left-leaning organisations attacked them and harassed some of their female students.
In a press release, the DU authorities also blamed the agitators for the episode, saying some “violent students and outsiders” besieged the VC's office.
On January 11, students from different departments launched a protest, demanding that the DU cancel affiliation of seven colleges with it.
Four days later, as part of their agitation, around 100 students staged a sit-in before the VC's office. But BCL men foiled their demo, allegedly after the VC called in the BCL men.
They harassed the female students and assaulted Moshiur Rahman Sadik, coordinator of the protest. Later, the BCL men handed Sadik over to the university authorities who subsequently handed him over to the police.
On January 17, students under the banner of "Students against repression" started a fresh protest, demanding punishment of the BCL men for the assault.
That day the agitating students broke down a gate of the Arts Building and kept the proctor confined inside his office for four hours. Later, the VC assured them of meeting their demands and formed a committee to investigate the January 15 incident.
The next day, the university authorities filed a case against 50 unnamed students for breaking down the gate and formed a committee to probe the incident, fuelling the protest.
"BEAT US MERCILESSLY"
Yesterday, the students first formed a human chain on the base of Aparajeyo Bangla and then brought out a procession on the campus to press home their four-point demand -- punishment of BCL men for the January 15 incident, withdrawal of the case, removal of the proctor for his alleged anti-student stance and solve the crisis over the affiliation of seven colleges.
Around 12:00pm, they besieged the VC's office after breaking down three gates -- the main entrance of the Registrar Building and two others inside. The VC was holding a meeting inside.
They wanted the VC to assure them of taking steps to meet their demands.
But as he was leaving his office around 2:30pm without talking to the students, the protestors blocked his way, and placed their demands.
The VC then assured them of taking action regarding the January 15 assault following due process, and said it would take time.
“All our activities will be conducted as per the University Ordinance of 1973. There will be no deviation from the rule of law,” he said.
The students insisted that the case be withdrawn and Proctor Prof AKM Golam Rabbani removed immediately. But the VC did not make any clear statement, and kept saying the same thing. The students kept him confined there.
Then around 3:30pm, some 100 BCL leaders and activists led by Jakir and Abid came there.
As they tried to escort the VC away, a scuffle broke out between them and the agitating students.
The BCL men, however, managed to take the VC inside his office and locked the gate of his room from outside.
In the meantime, several hundred BCL activists from different halls, and even from Dhaka College and Dhaka city units, joined in and took position around the building.
As the agitators kept trying to get in touch with the VC, the BCL men launched the attack on them. Some students took shelter in several rooms in fear.
The agitators tried to leave the building, but the Chhatra League men caught them and beat them wherever they found, leaving many wounded.
Two correspondents of this newspaper were present there.
Female Chhatra League activists, led by Fazilatunnesa Mujib Hall unit President Benjeer Hossain Nishi, Ruqiayyah Hall unit President BM Lipi Akter, Kuwait Moitri Hall unit President BM Farida Parvin and General Secretary Srabony Shaila were seen beating up female students and tearing up their dresses.
"They beat us mercilessly, irrespective of gender," said Meherunnahar Meghla, a student who became unconscious during the attack.
As the BCL activists besieged the entire area, the protesters, especially female ones, could not leave the area and got beaten up.
The injured students include Masud Al Mahdi, Sezan Ahmed Jim, Abu Raihan, Sumaiya Arefin Orni, Anobik Onabil and Tunazeena Jahan.
Chhatra Union General Secretary Liton Nandi, Chhatra Union President of DU unit Tuhin Kanti Das, and Chhatra Federation President of DU unit Umme Habiba Benazir also suffered injuries.
Two DU Correspondents -- Mir Arshadul Haque of The Independent and Arifur Rahman of New Age -- were beaten up by BCL men of Jagannath Hall and Bangabandhu Hall. The two were covering the incident.
Of them, Arshadul was admitted to DMCH with critical condition. Arifur took treatment at the DU Medical Centre.
Contacted for comment, VC's personal assistant picked up the call twice, saying, "Sir is in an important meeting."
Talking to the reporters after the incident, DU Proctor AKM Golam Rabbani said, "We will surely ensure punishment for the perpetrators based on evidence. No one will be spared."
DU PRESS RELEASE
In a press release, the DU authorities said some agitating students of the university and some outsiders launched a pre-planned attack in the name of demonstration.
Demonstrators, including some outsiders, took position in front of VC's office around 12:00pm, breaking down three gates with rods and cutters. They also chanted offensive slogans about the vice-chancellor, proctor and other teachers, it said.
Members of the proctorial team asked the agitators to send a delegation to the VC to discuss the issue but they did not pay any heed, and continued their violent activities, obstructing academic and administrative activities of the university, the release added.
At one stage, the agitating students barred the VC from joining a meeting of Board of Advanced Studies in front of his office.
"VC Prof Akhtaruzzman listened to their demands and assured them of taking steps after probing the incident and following due procedures, but the demonstrators rejected his assurance and continued hurling abusive words," it said.
"A group of teachers, university staff, officials and members of the proctorial body then rescued the VC from there by forming a human shield and took him to his office, when the protestors swooped on him."
Terming the incident "pre-planned", the authorities sought help from teachers, students and journalists.
The university authorities also formed a five-member committee to investigate the incident.
The committee, headed by DU Treasurer Prof Kamal Uddin, was asked to submit its report as soon as possible.
BCL PRESS RELEASE
In a press release, the BCL alleged that leaders of different left-leaning students' organisation attacked them and harassed some of their female leaders when they went to escort the VC, leaving some their leaders injured.
They also placed a five-point demand, including suspension of the students from the university, who broke the gate and “attacked the VC,” and punishment of those who wants to create instability on the campus.