Four days into the Ducsu election, the crisis at Dhaka University is far from over.
Agitating students continued their protest for the fourth day yesterday, demanding a fresh election. And at least seven students, most of them independent and leftist candidates who lost the polls, were still on a hunger strike over the same demand.
Amid such a situation, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday invited all the 25 Ducsu and 13 hall union leaders-elect for talks at the Gono Bhaban at 4:00pm tomorrow, according to the PM's daily schedule.
Meanwhile, talking to The Daily Star, Ducsu VP-elect Nurul Haq Nur hinted that he would take charge, but would also fight for the students' demands, including that for a fresh election.
On Wednesday, DU Vice-chancellor Prof Akhtaruzzaman dismissed the possibility of a repolling and threatened students with lawsuits for any sort of unrest, angering them further.
In Monday's elections, which came after 28 years, BCL got 23 of the 25 Ducsu posts.
Nur, a popular quota reform leader, shocked the BCL by winning the VP post by a huge margin of votes. Another quota leader also made it into the committee.
Of the 18 hall unions, 12 went to the BCL, while independents swept in most of the five female halls, where the pro-ruling party's student body has little hold.
Most independent and leftist panels exploded in protests about one hour before the voting ended and demanded a re-election. They had also called a strike, which was later withdrawn.
On the election day, the university authorities found proof of irregularities at Bangladesh-Kuwait Maitree Hall, where several hundred ballot papers were found in a sack. All the ballot papers were marked in favour of the BCL candidates, said teachers and students.
The hall provost was removed immediately from the post.
Students also found unmarked ballot papers at Ruqayyah Hall.
Students, including leftist and independent candidates who boycotted Monday's Ducsu polls, brought out a procession on the campus yesterday, demanding a fresh election.
Their other demands are resignation of all the teachers and staffers involved in the “farcical” election, formation of a neutral election committee and withdrawal of all the cases filed against the agitating students.
In the afternoon, leaders of all protesting panels held a meeting at the TSC.
ARM Asifur Rahman, who ran for the general secretary post, said they decided to form a common platform for all panels that boycotted the election.
About the possibility of Nur's taking charge, he said, “It's his personal affairs.”
Several meeting sources said other panel members requested Nur not to take charge as VP. Nur argued it would be more effective if he worked for the students form within the Ducsu.
Though at least 12 students continued their fast unto death yesterday, the authorities visited only five of them, who suspended their strike for a day.
The DU VC yesterday declined to comment on the matter.
“We would rather die but won't quit until our demands are met,” Al Mahmud Taha, one of the hunger strikers, told The Daily Star yesterday.
“Almost 72 hours have passed but no one [from the authorities] came to us. The question of meeting our demands seems a far cry,” said a feeble-looking Taha.
He said he resented the authorities' apathy, adding that no teacher had even visited Anindya, one of the agitators hospitalised on Wednesday.
BCL MEN HARASS FEMALE STUDENTS
Five Ruqayyah Hall students, who were among the 12 protesting students, alleged that they were threatened by BCL men in front of the dormitory gate early yesterday.
“Around 1:30am, some 200 Chhatra League activists, led by General Secretary Golam Rabbani, came to us and asked us to leave,” said Shrobona Shafiq Dipty, one of the female students.
“They hurled abuse at us and called us addicts. They also demanded our expulsion from the university,” she said.
The Chhatra League men were joined by fellow activists of the dormitory, she said.
“There was a heated exchange of words ... The situation eased after the hall tutors intervened,” she added.
The protesters said they were feeling insecure since the incident.
Replying to a reporter's query, Rabbani said, “Everyone has the right to stage a protest or go on a hunger strike. But no one has the right to jeopardise security by keeping the dormitory gate open at 2:00am.”
The five girls started the hunger strike on Wednesday night, calling for the resignation of the hall provost over her failure to hold a fair election and demanding re-election to their hall unions.
Around 10:30pm yesterday, they suspended the programme for 24 hours on assurance that the VC would be informed about the demands.
They also issued a 24-hour ultimatum for meeting their demands.
Around 12:30pm yesterday, VP-elect Nur and pro-BNP Chhatra Dal VP candidate Mostafizur Rahman expressed solidarity with the five protesters.
Nur voiced concerns over the girls' safety and condemned harassing them.
Ruqayyah Hall provost Prof Zeenat Huda yesterday said she did not have the jurisdiction to arrange a fresh hall union election, according to a press release from the DU teachers' club.
She claimed that she was not aware of BCL men threatening the protesters.
“I was not informed about it. No hall tutor informed me anything about it. Our concern is to bring the students back to the hall from outside,” she added.
Asked, she said the hall authorities did not file any case against any of the protesters.
NUR LIKELY TO TAKE CHARGE AS VP
Talking to this newspaper, Nur said, “I am considering taking part in Ducsu's inauguration ceremony. I will officially represent the general students.
“The students who are protesting against vote rigging and other irregularities have my full support.”
He further said, “The authorities should hold a free and fair election to make up for their failure during Monday's polls.
“If the DU administration arranges a fresh election, it will be better for all and I am ready to contest as VP again.”
Asked about the PM's invitation, Nur said, “I will meet the prime minister if I get an invitation.”